Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Trade Fair: A Swap of Fallen Angels

The Florida Marlins and Seattle Mariners have been two of the busiest teams this offseason and look to remain active for the remainder of the winter. The Marlins, as always, are in shedding mode. With 16 players eligible for arbitration following the 2008 season, club president David Samson ordered GM Michael Hill to slice and dice wherever and whenever possible. Thus far, Florida has traded away first baseman Mike Jacobs, outfielder Josh Willingham, starter Scott Olsen and reliever Kevin Gregg. The Mariners, fresh off a hugely disappointing 61-101 season and with new GM Jack Zduriencik in tow, are also looking to wheel and deal. Zduriencik just last week completed a three-team/12 player mega-deal with the Indians and Mets at the Winter Meetings and has indicated he’s got much more work ahead of him. Interestingly enough, in addition to being trigger-happy, both the Marlins and Mariners each have one glaring weakness – the Marlins covet an inexpensive catcher and the Mariners are in desperate need of a corner outfielder with pop. As a result, we propose the following trade:

- The Marlins trade outfielder Jeremy Hermida to the Mariners in exchange for catcher Jeff Clement.

This trade makes sense on so many levels. Let’s start with how it impacts the Marlins. Despite John Baker’s impressive big league debut (.299/.392/.447), the Marlins still view the 27-year-old as a backup. In Clement, Florida would be obtaining a young (25) catcher whose left-handed power bat would serve as an effective foil to right-handed Dan Uggla, Cameron Maybin, Hanley Ramirez and Jorge Cantu (provided the latter isn’t dealt in the Marlins’ ongoing purge). Though Clement’s .227/.295/.360 performance in 203 at bats with Seattle last season shows that the 2005 first rounder is far from a finished product, his 38 home runs and .853 OPS in 873 Triple A at bats are indicative of his vast offensive potential. On defense, Clement will never be mistaken for Johnny Bench; however, he has enough of an arm to stop a running game and has improved significantly at blocking balls in the dirt. Finally, Clement is cheap. He won’t be arbitration eligible until after the 2010 season, which means he’ll fit nicely into Florida’s miniscule budget.

Despite Hermida’s mouth watering potential, the Marlins won’t miss him. The team’s 2002 first rounder looked like he was poised for a breakout season following a .296/.369/.501 campaign in 2007, but he missed the first week of April and never really got back on track. By September he had lost his starting job, and with Maybin ready for prime time Hermida’s prospects for 2009 appear dim. Throw in the fact that Hermida is arbitration eligible and therefore due for a significant raise, and it’s not hard to see why the Marlins have placed the former phenom on the trading block.

Given Zduriencik’s extensive scouting and player evaluation background, it’s likely that a player with Hermida’s natural ability would be welcomed with open arms in Seattle. Still just 24, Hermida flashed five-tool potential throughout his minor league career and was at times compared to talents like Larry Walker and Paul O’Neill. Perhaps all he needs, like O’Neill 15 years ago, is a change of scenery and an organization that believes in him. With Raul Ibanez having moved on to greener pastures in Philadelphia, Hermida’s lefty bat and athleticism would fit in well with Ichiro and newly-acquired Franklin Gutierrez in the Mariners’ revamped outfield.

Make no mistake, it wouldn’t be easy for Seattle to part with Clement. In fact, as recently as a year ago he was seen as the organization’s catcher of the future. However, the Mariners’ catching depth should soften the blow. Not only does Kenji Johjima still have three years and $24 million left on his contract, but Adam Moore enjoyed a banner 2008 and already boasts far better defensive skills and the ability to hit for a higher average than Clement. The organization also has Rob Johnson, 24, who has nothing left to prove in the minors after hitting .305 at Triple A in 2008.

No comments: