El Duque Swapped For Julio

In a surprising move, the Diamondbacks sent starter Orlando Hernandez to the Mets for reliever Jorge Julio.  El Duque, age 36-40ish, has a 6.11 ERA and 1.58 WHIP through his first nine starts this year.  27 year-old righty Julio had a 5.06 ERA and 1.45 WHIP for the Mets.

Hernandez will be paid $4.5MM this season and doesn’t figure to pick up his incentives for Comeback Player of the Year or an All-Star Game.  Julio makes about $2.5MM and has yet to reach free agency.  Hernandez was projected to add about 1.8 wins in 122 innings while Julio’s projection called for 1.5 wins in 58 innings (3.73 ERA, 1.29 WHIP).

Perhaps D’Backs pitching coach Bryan Price thinks he can limit Julio’s largest flaw, his tendency to allow home runs.  He’d better figure something out because Chase Field boosts homers for lefties by 18% (Shea suppressed them by 6%).  The only silver lining in Julio’s 2006 performance is that he’s managed to whiff 33 hitters in just over 21 innings.  The 13.92 K/9 is the best in the game among pitchers with 20 innings.

El Duque had three quality starts in nine tries for Arizona.  Last year for the White Sox, 45% of his starts were quality efforts.  While he’s an improvement over Jose Lima and Jeremi Gonzalez, the difference may be marginal.  PECOTA projected Gonzalez at a 5.71 ERA, Lima at 5.21, and Hernandez at 5.17.  Who knows, though, maybe El Duque will rise to the occasion on the big stage and give the Mets 100 innings of league average ball.  And of course he could be an asset should the Mets make the playoffs.

I can see the reasoning here for both sides.  The Mets fill their starter vacancy at a low cost and value Hernandez higher than most teams.  El Duque loves New York and Minaya loves El Duque.  Minaya scouted Hernandez and considers him a warrior.  On the other hand, the D’Backs get a reliever who still at least has potential to be dominant.  Julio is under contract for a couple more years and adds depth to an already decent Arizona pen.  Perhaps Josh Byrnes thought Hernandez’s value would only continue to decrease as the season wore on.

It will be interesting to see if the Mets continue their pursuit of Orlando’s half-brother, Livan Hernandez.

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