News of the trade that sent Daniel Palka to the Minnesota Twins for catcher (?) Chris Herrmann seemed to cause a bit of stir Tuesday afternoon. After all, it was the first trade of the offseason and everyone’s looking for a headline. The deal certainly caught Diamondbacks fans by surprise. And Palka was a guy they’d heard plenty about given his big season in Visalia and his hot hitting in the Arizona Fall League. And maybe that’s the place to start.
Palka checked in at #17 on the D-backs Top 30 Prospect List that came out last week. His season in Visalia was huge, but the downside was that he was a 24-year old beating up on younger, less experienced competition. His performance created quite a stir, however, and he led Visalia all year long. But the age at which that performance occurred matters, and his value, despite the homers, was limited. That’s why he didn’t rank any higher on the top 30.
The notion of his lower-than expected value was backed up when he was flipped straight-up for Herrmann. And Chris Herrmann isn’t exactly a household name, which left a lot of Diamondbacks fans scratching their heads. So here’s a quick recap of who he’s been.
Herrmann was a 6th round pick in 2009 and is now about to turn 28. He’s versatile in the sense that he can play catcher and the outfield, but the fact that he hasn’t stuck behind the plate is concern. Between four major league seasons, he’s only caught about a half season’s worth of innings. Those innings don’t appear to be good ones – as a pitch framer he’s been about as good as Welington Castillo and Jarrod Saltalamacchia, which to say, very bad. And you can guess what playing an catcher in the outfield looks like – it’s ugly. In small samples he’s been pretty terrible.
So why strike a deal for him in the first place? Well, he bats left-handed and can back up a number of positions. That’s one explanation. He hasn’t hit at all to date, though, so there’s basically zero upside. So what’s the motivation from the D-backs’ perspective?
Essentially they cashed in a hitter who wasn’t a lock to ever reach the majors as anything more than a bench player for a guy who’s a bench player right now. Herrmann may not crack the opening day roster unless the team wants to carry three catchers as he doesn’t look like an upgrade over Tuffy Gosewisch. But he does give them some depth in an area that’s plagued them since Miguel Montero moved on to greener pastures. You can start to see why they wanted Peter O’Brien to catch so badly, because if he could, you wouldn’t need this trade (unless the true selling point for Herrmann is that he’s left-handed).
This is the kind of deal that a team who wants to win right now makes. We can argue if Chris Herrmann is the right guy for the job, but as we’ve said all along, there are going to have to be deals made that might look undesirable if Arizona is trying to contend. Essentially, they shored up a weakness by dealing someone away who was fringy to begin with. Welcome to building a contender. This is what it looks like. And this was just for a complementary piece, so keep your seat belts fastened, because this trend is likely to continue.
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