The Rays finally made the acquisition of 32 year-old RHP Roberto Hernandez official today. Hernandez signed a one year, $3.2MM deal, in what Andrew Friedman called a “risk-reward” move with an “upside (that) is really compelling.” Additionally Hernandez is expected to net $1.85 million in incentives for innings pitched (up to $1.25-million) and also for relief appearances (up to $600,000).
Roberto Hernandez has a good sinker, slider, and changeup. He however throws a four seam fastball which does worse than everything else. It’s been speculated that he could be a very effective pitcher if he were to drop that pitch altogether, while also getting back to his 2007 velocity.
He is not without his own set of specific concerns. Hernandez has been called a head case that tends to overcompensate when he’s frustrated, throwing pitches in the zone that tend to travel long distances in the opposite direction. He also has the tendency to walk batters. The Rays have a way of fixing pitchers, after all look what they did with Soriano, Benoit, and Rodney. If there is a coaching staff in all of baseball that can turn around a pitchers career, it’s Jim Hickey and Co.
It’s not certain how the Rays will utilize Hernandez, though I suspect that he could be used as a long reliever, or used in the same manner as Burke Badenhop last season. If you recall, Badenhop was the Rays ground ball specialist, ending his tenure with a 52.9% GB percentage. Like Badenhop, Hernandez is a sinker-ball pitcher with a career 58.5% GB percentage. It’s no secret that the Rays are a defensive team. When you consider that fact with the way they utilize the shift, Hernandez could be an effective mulit-inning reliever, while also being effective in inducing that all too important ground ball or double play.
All things considered, I think this was a good move. The Rays need to have someone in the wings if/when Jeff Niemann gets injured again. They also need that quality “get me out of this jam” type of pitcher to compensate for the pitcher they lost to the Brewers in return for Robert Mondesi Jr.
In other news, if you haven’t heard yet, former Rays first baseman (ahem, twice removed) Carlos Pena is now an Astro. Houston signed Pena to a one-year, $2.9MM contract. Pena is expected to be the Astros primary designated hitter who could be called on to play first base from time-to-time.