Pirates finally bid Hermansen goodbye

By Jim Callis
July 31, 2002

The Pirates expected big things out of Chad Hermansen after drafting him 10th overall in 1995 and seeing him hit 28 homers in Triple-A at age 20 three years later. But Hermansen never panned out in the majors, and Pittsburgh finally pulled the plug on him in the last deal announced on trade deadline Wednesday. He went to the Cubs for Darren Lewis.

Hermansen, now 24, hit 32 Triple-A homers in 1999 but has regressed and been unable to win a regular job on the lowly Pirates. He lacks plate discipline and major league pitchers have exploited that weakness, holding him to .199-12-29 totals with 31 walks and 142 strikeouts in 139 games. He made Pittsburgh’s roster this season mainly because he had run out of options, and has batted .206-7-15 in 64 contests. Hermansen offers decent speed and outfield skills.

The 34-year-old Lewis never has been much of a hitter, yet consistently finds big league jobs because of his defensive prowess and speed. The Cubs signed him to a one-year, $500,000 contract to serve as a mentor to fellow center fielder Corey Patterson in 2002. Lewis has hit .241-0-7 in 58 games this season and has career .250-27-342 totals with 247 steals in 1,353 contests. His .994 career fielding percentage is the second-highest in major league history among outfielders with at least 1,000 games, trailing only Darryl Hamilton (.995).

August 2 update: There was more to the Hermansen trade than was initially revealed at the deadline, and it had to be further tweaked when Lewis opted to retire rather than join the Pirates. The clubs exchanged three minor leaguers on Friday, with Pittsburgh acquiring lefthanded relievers Rick Palma and Tim Lavery plus cash for outfielder Aron Weston.

Weston has the highest ceiling of that trio, but he also has been stuck in low Class A for three consecutive seasons, missing most of 2001 with severe hamstring problems. A third-round pick in 1999 out of an Ohio high school, the 21-year-old Weston has considerable tools, including plus power potential, speed and center-field range. But he also needs to strengthen his 6-foot-6 frame and he has yet to produce much at the plate. In 67 games at Hickory this season, he hit .239-4-30 with 20 steals. The Cubs moved him to their low Class A Lansing roster.

Palma, 22, was signed out of Venezuela in 1996. He was mediocre as a starter but has had more success since becoming a full-time reliever in 2001. He has spent most of the last two seasons at Double-A West Tenn, where he went 1-2, 1.71 in 43 games this year, including a nifty 56-17 strikeout-walk ratio in 58 innings. Palma’s best pitch is his changeup, and he also throws a high-80s fastball and commands a below-average slider. The Pirates assigned him to Double-A Altoona.

Lavery, 23, initially was drafted by the Cubs in 1996 as a 14th-rounder out of an Illinois high school. He opted instead to attend the University of Illinois, where he played both football and baseball. Lavery started at quarterback as a redshirt freshman in 1997 and eventually signed with the Cubs as an 11th-round pick in 1999. He had shoulder surgery that November. His stuff is similar to Palma’s, though he doesn’t throw as hard. Lavery’s top pitch is also his changeup, while his fastball usually operates in the 82-84 mph range. In 29 games (eight starts) at high Class A Daytona, Lavery was 5-6, 2.98 with 56 strikeouts and 14 walks in 91 innings. He was sent to high Class A Lynchburg after the trade.