Jul
05

Scouting The Trade Market: Ramon Hernandez

By

As I wrote this morning, the Yankees have gotten next to nothing out of their Russell Martin-Chris Stewart catching tandem this year, meaning it’s only logical to explore potential trade options for help behind the dish. Unfortunately the crop of catchers around the game consists of elite backstops (Yadier Molina, Joe Mauer, etc.) or absolute garbage (Kurt Suzuki, Miguel Olivo, etc.). There seems to be no middle ground, though one name caught my eye when MLBTR published a list of potentially available catchers earlier this week: Ramon Hernandez of the Rockies.

Hernandez, 36, is currently on the DL with a left hand strain but he started a minor league rehab assignment last night. He was off to a slow start this season — .216/.260/.398 with four homers (58 wRC+) — but it was only 101 plate appearances and his hand was barking. The Rockies are going nowhere fast (31-50) and Hernandez’s injury has allowed catcher of the future Wilin Rosario to emerge as an everyday option (100 wRC+), so it seems likely that they’ll look to move the veteran backstop for prospect depth. Frankly, they should be selling off anything not nailed down. The Yankees need catching help and Hernandez is a catcher, but it’s not that simple. Let’s see what he has to offer…

The Pros

  • Despite this year’s numbers, Hernandez can still hit a little. He posted a .282/.341/.446 batting line with a dozen homers (111 wRC+) in 328 plate appearances last year for the Reds and has hit .280/.341/.432 (105 wRC+) in nearly 800 plate appearances since Opening Day 2010.
  • Most of that damage has come against same-side pitchers. Hernandez has tagged right-handers to the tune of .279/.338/.450 with 21 homers (109 wRC+) in 538 plate appearances over the last three seasons. He’s held his own against southpaws as well: 95 wRC+ in 186 plate appearances.
  • Beyond the raw production, Hernandez’s best offensive trait is his ability to put the bat on the ball. His career strikeout rate is a miniscule 12.7% and he’s never deviated too far from that number in any season, even as he’s crept up into his mid-30s.
  • Beyond the Box Score rated him as one of the game’s better defensive backstops in both 2010 and 2011. Click through for the full analysis. Hernandez has also been consistently above average at stopping the running game, throwing out a hair more than one-third (33.8% to be exact) of attempted basestealers since the start of 2010. League average is generally in the 27-29% range. As an added bonus, Hernandez has started 30 games (44 appearances total) at first base in recent years. Versatility is always nice.
  • Hernandez spent three years with the Orioles so he’s familiar with the AL East and all that stuff. I don’t put a ton of stock into that but I do think it’s worth mentioning. Knowing the lay of the AL East land is better than coming in blind. Hernandez has always been considered a strong clubhouse guy — that’s one of the primary reasons why Colorado signed him in the first place — and again, always a plus.

The Cons

  • Catchers get hurt, it comes with the territory, but Hernandez has been on the DL five times in the last six years. His injuries include an oblique strain (2007), a groin contusion (2007), knee surgery (2009), knee soreness (2010), and now the hand issue. Hernandez is no longer an everyday backstop and has been unable to top 85 starts behind the plate or 360 plate appearances in a single season since 2008.
  • We can’t draw any meaningful conclusions from his performance this year, but Hernandez’s ground ball and line drive rates have been trending in the wrong direction for a few years now. The same can be said of his once strong walk rate. This isn’t atypical of older hitters.
  • Mike Fast’s now famous study on pitching framing rated Hernandez as one of the game’s worst at turning borderline pitches into strikes in recent years.
  • Hernandez is no rental. The Rockies signed him to a two-year deal worth $6.5M this offseason, and he’s still owed approximately $1.6M for the rest of this year plus $3.2M next year. Tying up future payroll with a midseason trade is not ideal.

On paper, Hernandez seems like a pretty good fit for the Yankees. He could split catching duties with Martin down the stretch and since he’s under contract at a reasonable price next year, he could serve as a nice veteran caddy for a young kid like Austin Romine. His contract then expires right as the 2014 payroll plan takes effect. Simply put, he’d be a stopgap for next season.

That said, we are talking about a 36-year-old backstop who probably should have turned into a pumpkin two or three years ago. His slow start this year could just be small sample size noise or the sign of impending doom. Catchers do fall off quickly and drastically without warning, so any team that trades for him could be stuck with a dud backstop eating up future payroll. There’s quite a bit of risk here but the cost — both financially and in terms of players in the actual trade — shouldn’t be exorbitant, plus the benefits could be compounded since Martin tends to play better with extra rest. The catcher pickin’s are slim and Hernandez just may represent the best of the bunch.

Categories : Trade Deadline
  • DJ4K&Monterowasdinero

    We have been lacking a Hernandez for some time. We need one. Sign him.

  • 28 this year

    Eh, Hernandez is better than the trampoline net thing that I bought to replace Martin with so yea, go for it. (jk, btw, Martin/Stewart have been slightly better than those net things this year).

    • Andy Pettitte’s Fibula (formerly Manny’s BanWagon)

      LOL.

      I played with those trampoline net things for hours as a kid.

    • Steve (different one)

      Called a “pitch-back”. Loved it.

      • 28 this year

        Good to know the name.

        • Tyrone Sharpton

          Joba wants one

  • Brian S.

    No thanks. Those pitch framing numbers aren’t very good. Say what you want about Martin but turning balls into strikes is still a very valuable skill.

    • Brian S.

      I mean, I still think Russ is a terrible hitter and not worth a lucrative extension but you know.

      • LarryM.,Fl.

        I agree with your opinion on Martin and his potential longterm expensive extension. Unless he lights it up real soon he’ll be without bargaining position. Some bloggers indicate playing hurt if this is the case the injury is effecting his play then DL him and bring up Frankie. Move up Murphy from AA to AAA temporarily.

  • Frank

    How’s Humberto Quintero? He was just released by Royals. Is he at least an upgrade over Stewart?

    • MannyGeee

      Many ppl here believe that the ziploc bag I brought my sandwich in today for lunch would be an upgrade… at least it wouldnt throw the ball into CF 3x a week…

    • Leo

      Bad hitter, good defensive catcher. Not very different from Chris Stewart.

      • jjyank

        But Stewart has been pretty bad defensively.

        I don’t know about Quintero’s defense, but if he is good back there, he’s most certainly an upgrade.

        • Get Phelps Up

          17/49 runners caught stealing this year which is 34.6% and 4th in the AL.

          No idea about any of his other skills though.

          • jjyank

            5 passed balls for a BUC isn’t very good. Other than that, I’m just going off the eye test.

            • yooboo

              Struggling and being bad defensive are different meanings.

              • jjyank

                Maybe? Sounds like semantics to me. All I’m saying is that if Quintero is good defensively, he’s an upgrade over Stewart. I have been pretty underwhelmed with his defense so far.

                • Get Phelps Up

                  Quintero’s only allowed 2 passed balls in ~140 more innings than Stewart has so I’d say he’s easily upgrade. (Although it is worth pointing out that he’s allowed 12 WPs to Stewarts 3, but I’d have to assume that’s mostly because of the Royals pitching staff and having more playing time)

          • yooboo

            CSP is never being favorable for Yanks since their pitchers are god-awfully slow on the mound.

    • Get Phelps Up

      I like him as a backup option. He’s definitely not a starter though – never played in more than 88 games in a season and has a .267 career OBP.

    • Brian S.

      He’s racist. Look up what he did to Bruce Chen.

    • RetroRob

      The catcher just outright cut by the Royals is most likely not an upgrade over Stewart.

      Quintero is also arbitration eligible after this season if I remember correctly, so his current $1 million salary will be going up if the goal is to keep him after this season.

      I’m all for improving on the margins, but this one would be so marginal that I don’t see it.

  • Andy Pettitte’s Fibula (formerly Manny’s BanWagon)

    This is exactly the problem upgrading the catcher positions. A guy like Hernandez should be an upgrade over Jeter’s whipping boy but he may just be a lateral move compared to Martin.

    Romine’s back injury really screwed things up as he’d be the logical choice to bring up at this time.

  • Dick Gozinya

    Am I the only person who thinks changing catchers mid-season is a bad idea?

    Why bring a guy in that has to learn an entirely new pitching staff?

    The staff has been pitching well for a while now. I’m not sure I could handle all the bitching that would be associated with a new catcher if a learning curve with a new staff happens to come into play.

    • yooboo

      Generally yes. Remember Yanks brought in one of the best defensive and calling game catchers in the MLB history and the rotation led by Pettitte did not like his handling.

      Tony Pena will burn a lot of energy working on communication between new catcher and pitching staffs.

      Maybe that is why Girardi insisting on patience with Martin as he witnessed a damage from Chris Stewart who was joined with Yanks right before the season began.

      • A.D.

        Assuming you mean Pudge? Don’t think he was ever considered great at calling a game

    • Leo

      I agree… unless you can make a big upgrade, it’s probably not worth it. Martin’s BABIP is .190. He most likely won’t be this bad at the plate all season. His wRC+ is sitting at 77 right now. Brian McCann’s is 81. Basbeall is a game of streaks, and this is a bad one for Martin at the moment.

      • Jim Is Bored

        Yeah I mean, his batted ball profile isn’t all that different from his previous years. If anything, it should lend itself to a slightly HIGHER babip, similar line drives, more ground balls, fewer infield fly balls, etc.

        I’d rather stick it out with him at this point.

    • MannyGeee

      maybe, but this is a different situation than Pudge a few years back. Pudge came in as an injury replacement for Jorge mid-season, so it was the ultimate trial by fire.

      You can ease Hernandez in as “CC’s personal Catcher ™” in the Chris Stewart spot. As the season progresses he has the ability to learn the staff at his pace. NOt ideal, but cha know what? I’d rather this than what we got.

  • yooboo

    There is no right value to upgrade Martin this year.

    Ramon Hernandez has historically strong 2nd half. Light prospect for him should not do any damage. He could replace Stewart with Cervelli still waits in the wing.

    Half duty may revive Martin but as long as he has back problem, it is difficult to be ensured.

  • Gonzo

    Russell Martin is so bad that he was a lower OPS than Jesus Montero. Still a higher OBP, but I think you get my point here.

    • Gonzo

      I mean even Chris Stewart has a higher OBP than Jesus Montero, so don’t read into OBP too much.

      • RetroRob

        Just another point illustrating Montero’s slow start with the bat. Extra bad in his case since Montero is also contributing negatively with his glove, hence his negative WAR.

  • blake

    nice post and a nice idea. Even if Hernandez didn’t help all that much next year he could give them a cheap option next year…..which would be much better than giving Martin a 2 or 3 year deal or whatever….

  • Bavarian Yankee

    anything is an upgrade over Martin right now but I’m not sure about Hernandez. He’s been barely better than Martin so far this year, so the chances aren’t that bad that the Yanks don’t improve at all they trade for him.

    Too bad the Reds are contending. Ryan Hanigan is a personal fave and his contract is pretty affordable (1.2M this year, 2.05M next year). I’d love to see him in pinstripes.

  • DM

    Breaking news — Noesi demoted to AAA.

    • Gonzo

      Are they bringing up Hultzen?

    • RetroRob

      We’re winning!

      And, yes, that’s a joke.

      • Get Phelps Up

        well Pineda and Campos (0) have out bWAR’d him and Montero (-1.7) soooo…

        • DM

          The other guy in that deal better start hitting the ball — or at least stop catching it with his head — if he doesn’t want to follow Noesi down. Things are a getting a bit tense in Seattle.

          • Get Phelps Up

            I’d imagine Jack Z must be on a very short leash up there…all his big “impact” moves have seemingly turned to crap (Smoak, Figgins, Montero, Noesi, etc)

            • DM

              The fact that they brought up Peguero should make Montero sweat a little. They’ll need to bring up a pitcher to replace Noesi after the break. Who’ll get sent down for that?

              • Robinson Tilapia

                I’d still shit myself to have Montero back in the organization. Not gon’ lie.

                • DM

                  If he was even a mediocre corner outfielder, I would as well. But we don’t need a DH — and the idea that Seattle picked a 21 yr old Mike Zunino and paid him 4 mil tells me what they think of Montero as their catcher of the future. From a defensive standpoint, that kid sounds like the Anti-Jesus or Anti-Christ if you prefer.

  • Chad Gaudin the Friendly Ghost

    “a groin contusion (2007)”

    Dafuq?

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      That’s what the injury log said. Probably took a foul ball and had a bruise.

      • Cris Pengiucci

        Or was kicked/slid into by a baserunner as he blocked home plate?

        • Gonzo

          Got caught cheating by his wife.

  • Robinson Tilapia

    In other words, Exhibit A for being thankful you’re in first place, staying put, and re-evaluating after the season.

    There may be options worth pursuing out there as a counterpoint to Martin. Judging from the cons in this write-up, this guy ain’t it.

    • yooboo

      Re-evaluating catcher should be top priority but it may not be resolved.

  • SMK

    Questions the Yankees should be asking themselves about potential replacements for Russell Martin:

    1) Does he have a pulse?

    2) No further questions.

    • Jim Is Bored

      Umm, nope. If you can find a suitable replacement for him, and the means by which to acquire that replacement, please let us know.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      So if the answer is “no,” then you sign the zombie catcher? I can get with that.

      • Get Phelps Up

        Chavez? He’d injure himself just strapping on the chest protector and shin guards…

        • Robinson Tilapia

          Chavez mated…..with Betty. That’s how you wind up with a zombie catcher.

      • Strat

        Hey!! Easy with the Walking Dead – Season 3 spoilers!

  • Rich in NJ

    If the price is right, do it.

    • Cris Pengiucci

      Some upside (he could provide more rest time for Martin and be a place holder next year for the catcher of the future, whoever that turns out o be should Martin leave), fairly low cost in terms of salary although i guess $3.2M next year isn’t “nothing”), but I’m still a bit concerned about him having to learn the pitchers mid-season. There’s half a season remaining, so I guess there’s time. As a replacement for Stewart at the right price, I guess I’m OK with the move. Just a minor possible nehancement to the team.

  • yooboo

    Martin should be on DL and Yanks bring Cervelli back. Martin could pick up a slack after he has a plenty of rest.