UPDATE: Not so fast, apparently. Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors reports that the Yomiuri Giants have been in contact with Hermida, but no contract has actually be signed.
Jeremy Hermida was once a top prospect for the Marlins, ranking fourth on Baseball America‘s list of the best prospects in the game back in 2006, but he never developed beyond a decent role player and now he’s headed to Japan at age 27.
Patrick Newman of NPB Tracker passes along a Japanese report that Hermida has signed with the Yomiuri Giants, who this year had former major leaguers Brian Bannister, Seth Greisinger, Jonathan Albaladejo, Michael Nakamura, Alex Ramirez, Rusty Ryal, and Josh Fields on their roster.
Hermida spent most of this season at Triple-A in the Reds’ system, hitting .319 with17 homers and a .924 OPS in 105 games, and also played 30 games in the majors with Cincinnati and San Diego. He’s a career .257 hitter with a .749 OPS, so there certainly could be a place for him as a part-time player on a lot of teams, but Hermida can make more money in Japan and has a chance to become a star there while he’s still relatively young.
The Rays were busy over the weekend, trading starter Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, designating All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, and then picking up C.J. Cron in a deal with the Angels. The Rays saved about $4 million — Odorizzi’s $6.3 million less Cron’s $2.3 million salary — and picked up a prospect. They’re still on the hook for Dickerson’s $5.95 million salary until they can find a trade partner, which seems likely.
Those are some head-scratching moves if you’re a Rays fan or a member of the Rays. Dickerson hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs, 62 RBI, and 84 runs scored in 629 plate appearances last season, part of which resulted in his first trip to the All-Star Game. Designating him for assignment is strictly a financial move, assuming he can be traded. The Rays are currently operating with a payroll below $70 million. This comes just a week and a half after Rays ownership proposed the public footing most of the bill for the club’s new stadium. And the Rays had traded third baseman Evan Longoria — then the face of the franchise — to the Giants earlier this offseason.
Longoria expressed sympathy for Rays fans for having to put up with this. Via Andrew Baggarly, Longoria said of the curious Dickerson move, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base. … I’m not going to take too many shots but it’s pretty obvious that guy is a valuable player and didn’t deserve to be DFAd. Corey was our best player last year.”
Longoria isn’t quite on the money there. By WAR, Dickerson ranked fifth among position players on the team, according to Baseball Reference. FanGraphs is also in agreement. Still, it’s indisputable that Dickerson, who turns 29 years old this May, more than pulled his weight. The Rays do not have a surfeit of starting outfielders, so it wasn’t like they were making room for other capable players. Mallex Smith, who put up a .684 OPS in 282 PA last year, is slated to start in left field at the moment. Designating Dickerson for assignment, as well as trading Longoria and Odorizzi, were simply cost-cutting decisions.
The Rays’ M.O. has been part of the problem leading to the current stagnant free agent market (sans Eric Hosmer‘s eight-year deal on Saturday). Teams like the Rays, Phillies, Reds, and Tigers have been explicitly putting out non-competitive teams in order to facilitate a rebuilding process. Longoria is right to express sympathy for Rays fans, who see their favorite team worsening a roster that went 80-82 last year. The Rays haven’t finished at .500 or above since 2013 and doesn’t figure to halt the streak this year.