Free Agent Stock Watch: Ramon Hernandez

During the period of 2003-06, Ramon Hernandez was consistently among the top ten offensive catchers in the game.  He hit .278/.335/.466 in 494 games in that time, averaging almost 19 home runs per season.  Fortunately for Hernandez, he reached free agency when he was still in his prime, and he scored a four-year, $27.5MM deal with the Orioles in December of 2005.


After three years in Baltimore Hernandez had worn out his welcome, and the Orioles shipped him to the Reds with cash for Ryan Freel, Justin Turner, and Brandon Waring.  Hernandez wasn't great in his first year with the Reds, but they re-upped him for $3MM anyway.  He managed to improve his batting average and power, but re-signed with the Reds again for the same money.  Hernandez has had another solid offensive year in 2011, though he is averaging less than 100 games per season.  Hernandez has re-entered the discussion of the ten best offensive catchers in baseball, but he's something less than a regular and will turn 36 in May.

Hernandez re-signed in November both times, before the Reds were forced to decide whether to offer arbitration.  If no deal is reached by the free agent arbitration offer deadline this year, the Reds will have a tough decision.  Hernandez profiles as a Type A free agent.  At the trade deadline, Reds GM Walt Jocketty wasn't even willing to listen to offers for him, under the assumption no team would offer enough.  In August, Hernandez was claimed off waivers but Jocketty again chose not to make a deal.

Jocketty's unwillingness to trade Hernandez suggests he's thinking of re-signing Hernandez, or at least is mulling an arbitration offer.  Hernandez and his agent Eric Goldschmidt are aware that turning down an arbitration offer from the Reds would hurt his market value, as a team would have to surrender a draft pick to sign him.  There's a case to be made for accepting an offer, as Hernandez clearly likes Cincinnati and he'd get a raise too.  But with Devin Mesoraco considered the catcher of the near future for the Reds and backup Ryan Hanigan locked up through 2013, how much playing time would Hernandez get?  The Reds could trade Hernandez if he accepts, at which point the catcher would probably wish he had simply chosen his destination in free agency.

There's an intricate game of cat-and-mouse when a free agent like Hernandez gets Type A status.  The Reds could play it safe and not offer arbitration, but then they'd risk getting nothing for him.  I think the club has more leverage here, since Hernandez would be tradeable if he accepts.  If he declines Hernandez would probably be the best catcher available on the free agent market, but he'd be a better fit for a team with a protected first-round draft pick.

Photo courtesy of Icon SMI.

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7 Comments on "Free Agent Stock Watch: Ramon Hernandez"

3 years 11 months ago

The Twins, with its protected first round pick, are an ideal fit. 

3 years 11 months ago

Why they didn’t trade him to the Giants at the deadline boggles my mind. I like Jocketty but he uncharacteristically messed up there.

Now, they probably offer him arb and hope he declines but trade him if he accepts. They had more leverage at the trade deadline.

3 years 11 months ago

They didn’t trade him because Ca$htellini didn’t want to make it seem like the team was giving up on the season (and thus discouraging fans from wasting, err, spending their money at the stadium) and Toothpick wanted to keep his veterans around so that they could get more playing time and improve their chances of getting a contract for the 2012 season.

At this time of the year, just like in Spring Training, Fistbands thinks it is more important for the veterans to show what they have, so as to get another contract or more playing time, then it is for the youth to show what they have.

3 years 11 months ago

Most of the fans I speak to would have preferred to have him traded and Mesoraco brought up.  I don’t think that would of been giving up on the season.

3 years 11 months ago

Ca$htellini still thinks Fistbands is a good Manager and trusts in what he says and what he wants. 

Fistbands history shows that he always has favorite players and plays them NO MATTER WHAT (Neifi Perez, Corey Patterson).

Fistbands history also shows that he wants to get veterans as much playing time as possible so that they have a better shot at a contract for the next season, whether that contract comes from the team Toothpick is managing or another team.

Seeing that Hernandez is a veteran, a Fistbands favorite and also seeing his stats at the trade deadline and his stupid nickname (Clutch Man Monie) it is obvious that Fistbands wanted to keep Hernandez and that Ca$htellini thought trading him away would be  a sign that the team had given up.

3 years 11 months ago

Loved Monie’s time here in Cincinnati, but we’ve got to make room for Mesoraco and (eventually, soon enough) Yasmani Grandal.

3 years 11 months ago

I can see the lunacy now; the Reds re-sign Hernandez (because he is one of Toothpick’s favorites) and trade Hanigan (just like in 2008 when they kept Paul Bako, who was one of Fistband’s favorites and released David Ross, who they received nothing for).

Then, when Hernandez’s offensive production falls off a cliff, is injured, or both (because of his age), they are forced to play Mesoraco more than Toothpick wants.  When Mesoraco doesn’t play up to expectations, Fistbands will start saying the team needs a Catcher with “veteran presence” and the Reds then go out and sign somebody off the scrap heap (Johnny Bench, Mike Piazza?) who gets the majority of the playing time.