Jed Hoyer’s predecessor, Kevin Towers, was known as “The Sludge Merchant” for his ability (born out of necessity) to pick up discarded scraps and turn them into functioning parts. Claiming Scott Linebrink off waivers and flipping him for Joe Thatcher after five great seasons, stealing Heath Bell from the Mets, signing Brian Sikorski from Japan and trading him for Mike Adams are but a few examples of Towers’ creativity in player personnel moves.
Towers had this down to an art. And like many artists, he excelled by embracing the constraints placed upon him by circumstance. Rather than complain about the color of his paint, he set out to make something beautiful with what he had. He is doing it again this year in Arizona, as Hoyer did last year in San Diego.
This year, Hoyer’s moves haven’t worked so well. Where Jerry Hairston Jr. and Yorvit Torrealba became surprisingly useful cogs in a surprisingly productive machine, Brad Hawpe and Jorge Cantu did nothing… or worse.
Still, not everything Hoyer touched has turned to lead. The acquisition of Cameron Maybin was a fleecing — not on the order of the trade that brought Adrian Gonzalez to San Diego, but a fleecing nonetheless. On a smaller scale, Chad Qualls — despite occasional implosions — has done a nice impersonation of Edward Mujica (whom the Padres surrendered in the Maybin deal):
Pitcher Year G IP ERA+ Mujica 2010 59 69.2 102 Qualls 2011 68 66.0 105
Mujica has gone onto greater things in Miami. Good for him, but as Qualls has demonstrated, Mujica was replaceable.
More importantly, we have reached a point in the season where the Padres must focus on making evaluations for next year. It’s audition time in San Diego, and Hoyer is bringing in as many warm bodies as possible to fill the available roles.
While fans have largely lost whatever hope/interest they may have had, Hoyer continues to watch for and pick up discarded scraps. Within the past week, he has claimed outfielder Jeremy Hermida (Reds), right-hander Jeff Fulchino (Astros), and right-hander Andrew Carpenter (Phillies) off waivers in the hope that one or more of them turns out to be a big-league player.
And while Fulchino seems closer to Ricky Stone than to Linebrink, and Long Beach State alum Carpenter’s greatest claim to fame lies in providing the Phillies with a daily reminder that they should have ventured further south with their second-round pick in 2006 (Vista HS right-hander Trevor Cahill went to the A’s with the next pick, while SDSU right-hander Justin Masterson went to the Red Sox five picks after Cahill), Hermida might be something. Despite having made his big-league debut in 2005, the former 11th pick overall (2002) is still just 27 years old — he was born 4 1/2 months before Jesus Guzman.
It is possible that Hermida peaked at age 23, when he hit .296/.369/.501 (125 OPS+) for the Marlins in 2007. He followed that with a couple of decent showings (.253/.335/.400, 92 OPS+ in 2008 and 2009 combined) before seeing his game completely deteriorate. Over the past two years, with four different teams, Hermida has hit .208/.260/.340 (61 OPS+). That represents a total of 269 plate appearances and is hardly conclusive, but it doesn’t look good.
Still, once upon a time, Hermida had skills. At age 21, he hit .293/.457/.518 in Double-A. Baseball America rated him the no. 18 prospect before that 2005 campaign, moving him up to no. 4 afterward. (BA‘s 2006 list provides a sobering reminder of how susceptible player development is to any number of seen and unseen forces — the prospects ahead of Hermida were Brandon Wood, Justin Upton, and Delmon Young.)
From the Baseball America Prospect Handbook 2004:
Some scouts called Hermida the best high school hitter since Eric Chavez. Others saw a young Andy Van Slyke or Paul O’Neill. Hermida himself identified more with Shawn Green. Whichever comparison you prefer, there’s no denying his polished hitting approach and advanced maturity.
Similar comments appear in the 2003, 2005, and 2006 versions. Hermida was an elite prospect, and although Sean Burroughs and Ruben Rivera remind us that this guarantees nothing, I can think of worse guys to take a flier on than someone who hit with power at age 23 in an environment that stifles offense.
Hermida might not be anything. In fact, there’s a good chance that he isn’t, that his best years are behind him. But you never know. Phil Nevin was older than Hermida when Towers acquired Nevin from the
Tigers for Andy Sheets in March 1999. If Hermida suddenly remembers how to crush baseballs, great; if not, the Padres gave up nothing to get him. Either way, it’s encouraging to know that Hoyer is still paying attention even when many of us no longer are.
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Speaking of Towers, his Diamondbacks are slithering toward the NL West title. One of the reasons for his club’s success this year, which I consider in my latest at Baseball Prospectus ($), is its domination of weak teams.
Through Sunday’s games, Arizona owned a 60-34 record against sub-.500 teams, while San Francisco checked in at 47-45. If the Giants fail to defend their World Series title, an inability to beat the clubs they were supposed to beat (they have an aggregate losing record against the five worst teams in the league) will have been a large part of the reason why.