Hermida brings his promise to Fenway outfield

J. HERMIDA 11th pick in ’02 J. HERMIDA
11th pick in ’02
By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / November 6, 2009

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Jeremy Hermida’s first at-bat in the major leagues produced a grand slam. He was 21 at the time, and the Florida Marlins thought they had a player worthy of building a team around.

That was five seasons ago. Yesterday, the Marlins grew tired of waiting and traded Hermida to the Red Sox for lefthanders Hunter Jones and Jose Alvarez.

“This was not a blockbuster,’’ Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein said. “This was a value trade, a chance to get a guy with unfulfilled potential at a reasonable cost.’’

The Red Sox see Hermida as a suitable fourth outfielder who can fill the role Rocco Baldelli did this past season. But the lefthanded hitter, who turns 26 in January, remains capable of developing into an everyday player.

Hermida welcomed the deal.

“It’s very exciting,’’ he said. “We played in Boston this season and there’s nothing better than a chance to play at Fenway Park. I think this is going to do me a lot of good.’’

Hermida hit .259 with 13 home runs and 47 RBIs for the Marlins this season, playing right and left field. But it was not long ago that much more was expected from him.

The 11th overall pick in the 2002 draft, Hermida had 18 homers and drove in 63 runs during the 2007 season. An OPS of .956 over the second half of that season seemed to indicate the Georgia native was on the verge of stardom.

But he has hit .253 since then, with a sharp decline in slugging percentage.

“The last two years, there were high expectations that didn’t come together for him,’’ Epstein said. “His performance certainly hasn’t been as good the last two years as it was in 2007. I can tell you that’s the reason we were able to acquire him today.’’

With Hermida eligible for salary arbitration after earning $2.25 million in 2009, the budget-conscious Marlins were willing to accept a modest return. Jones, 25, had a 9.24 ERA in 11 games with the Red Sox this season. Alvarez is a 20-year-old who played Single A ball.

“Our expectations were high for Jeremy,’’ Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest said. “He had his moments where he was highly productive. But, given his talent level, I think the expectation was for more.’’

Hermida believes a change of location will suit him and perhaps unlock the potential so many believe he has.

“I was one of the older guys in Florida,’’ he said. “That’s the kind of team we had. Now I’ll be around guys who have been in the league for 10 or 11 years. I can learn a lot from there. At this point in my career, it’s probably the best thing for me.

“I know I have the ability. I need to stay healthy and put it together.’’

Hermida played only three games after Aug. 31 because of an oblique strain. But he did draw a career-best 56 walks, something not lost in the evaluation done by the Red Sox.

“He’s somebody who has positive indicators that future performance might be better than his past performance,’’ Epstein said. “His minor league track record, his age, his draft pedigree, our scouting reports over the years indicate there’s a chance that he can turn into the player he was once thought to be. Certainly this is a good time to acquire him, when his value is a little bit low.’’

Baldelli filed for free agency yesterday, as did reliever Billy Wagner and left fielder Jason Bay as baseball got down to business following the World Series. The Red Sox also opened room on their 40-man roster by outrighting righthander Fernando Cabrera, outfielder Joey Gathright, and infielder Nick Green to Triple A Pawtucket.

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