Livan Hernandez Rumors
Michael Morse could be "the biggest bargain in baseball," writes Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post. Morse, earning just $1.05MM this season, is hitting .311/.360/.552 for the Nats and is under team control through 2013. Boswell warns that it could be too early for Washington to explore a multiyear deal with Morse, however, given that Jayson Werth "could be the next overvalued Vernon Wells" in terms of an albatross contract and Morse is still somewhat unproven.
Some more Nats notes, courtesy of another Washington Post writer, Adam Kilgore...
- Ian Desmond has drawn interest from several teams but the shortstop is considered one of the Nats' core players and GM Mike Rizzo has stated the club isn't moving any of those pieces.
- Jason Marquis and Livan Hernandez are getting the most trade interest of any of Washington's starters, though the club isn't "actively shopping" either hurler. Kilgore hears from one Major League executive that the Nats' "perception of [Marquis'] value exceeded that of the league’s" and thus Marquis wouldn't be dealt.
- Ryan Zimmerman, who has known B.J. Upton since childhood, endorsed the idea of Upton coming to Washington. "I mean, I like the team we have here,” Zimmerman said. “Anytime you had talented players to your team, it gives you a better chance to win. That’s the ultimate goal. If he’s going to help us win, I’d love to have him on our team.” The Nationals have been interested in Upton for a while, but Kilgore notes that the team is looking for a long-term answer in center field and Upton is only under contract through 2012.
The Nationals are listening on top relievers Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, but such a trade would have to fill a specific long-term need such as center field. Teams are calling on Storen, Clippard, and Todd Coffey.
Potential center field targets for Washington include B.J. Upton, Michael Bourn, Colby Rasmus, and Denard Span, writes Rosenthal. He believes that a reliever alone probably would not bring back a center fielder, but the Nats could also trade shortstop Ian Desmond since some club officials would like to move Danny Espinosa to shortstop.
Storen is under team control through 2016, Clippard and Desmond through '15. Desmond would be an interesting name for teams seeking shortstop help, though he's limped to a .226/.269/.311 line in 361 plate appearances this year.
The Nationals also have starting pitching to spare, as ESPN's Jerry Crasnick tweets that they will move Jason Marquis, Livan Hernandez, and Tom Gorzelanny. Gorzelanny is a bit of a surprise, as he's got strong strikeout and walk rates and is under team control through 2013.
Players who have performed well this month are more likely to intrigue buyers for at least two reasons. First of all, strong performance is an indication of health. Secondly, MLB teams have diverted some scouting efforts from amateurs to the pros since this year’s draft concluded about a month ago.
As a result, it’s fair to say that players who have been performing well this past month are more likely to draw interest at the trade deadline than players with similar overall numbers who had hot starts then cooled off later in the season. Here’s a look at some players who have been performing particularly well over the course of the past 30 days:
- Michael Cuddyer - The Twins aren’t prepared to sell yet, but Cuddyer would be a candidate to go if they do decide 2011 isn’t their year. He has a .378/.458/.633 line this month.
- Melky Cabrera - Cabrera is under team control through 2012 as an arbitration eligible player, so Kansas City’s front office may decide to keep him around for another year. His .342/.374/.470 line this month would appeal to contenders, though.
- Mark Reynolds - The slugger has ten homers in the past 30 days after starting the season slowly. He earns $7.5MM in 2012 and has an $11MM option for 2013 ($500K buyout).
- J.J. Hardy - Like Reynolds, Hardy had a power surge this month. He hit seven homers and added a .269/.306/.600 line. The Orioles are negotiating an extension with the shortstop, so there’s a good chance he stays in Baltimore.
- Coco Crisp - Crisp has a respectable .298/.364/.426 line this month.
- Carlos Pena - Like Reynolds, Pena strikes out a ton and has a low batting average. But his hot streaks can carry teams and he hit ten homers with a .240/.306/.600 line this month. Tim Dierkes examined Pena as a trade candidate earlier today.
- Livan Hernandez - GM Mike Rizzo says the Nationals will be buyers and sellers this month. Presumably some rival clubs are hoping the dependable Hernandez is available this summer, since he has a 3.62 ERA with 7.2 K/9 and 1.4 BB/9 this month.
- Edwin Jackson - It’s not surprising that clubs are inquiring on Jackson given that he has posted a 4.05 ERA with 9.1 K/9 and 1.4 BB/9 this month. And his 2.52 xFIP suggests he has pitched better than his ERA indicates.
- Ryan Dempster - Across town, Dempster could draw interest as well. The right-hander has a 2.59 ERA with 7.8 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 this month.
- Carlos Villanueva - Though he may not be a trade candidate in the traditional sense, Villanueva’s success in the rotation has presumably drawn the attention of front offices around baseball. He has a 2.84 ERA with 5.4 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9 this month.
- Hiroki Kuroda - Kuroda will require compensation to waive his no-trade clause, but he is already drawing interest. The right-hander has a 2.30 ERA with 5.7 K/9 and 1.4 BB/9 this month.
- Aramis Ramirez, Jose Reyes and Hunter Pence have been playing well, but it seems unlikely that they'll be dealt this month. I’m ignoring relievers, since many relievers have worked ten innings or less this month and that’s a minute sample size.
The Twins signed Joe Crede two years ago today in the hopes that he could replicate or improve upon the numbers he posted in 2008, when he made the All-Star team. Crede battled injuries and clubbed 15 homers in 90 games for Minnesota that year, but he hasn't played in the majors since. Crede remains a free agent after deciding not to report to Rockies camp. Here are today's links...
- In a piece for ESPN.com, MLBTR's own Howard Megdal points out that Mets starter Mike Pelfrey has been far more consistent than anyone gives him credit for.
- MLBPA leader Michael Weiner said the union would be open to a player owning a share of a team, according to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (on Twitter). The possibility came up when the Cardinals discussed an extension with Albert Pujols.
- Weiner says he expects to make progress on the upcoming Collective Bargaining Agreement during Spring Training, according to Tim Reynolds of the AP (via the Miami Herald). Baseball's current agreement expires this offseason.
- Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post explains how Livan Hernandez and Nationals GM Mike Rizzo negotiated the right-hander's current contract.
- Tigers reliever Joaquin Benoit told Dick Scanlon of the Detroit Free Press that he signed early because the Tigers made him a strong offer ($16.5MM) and he couldn't justify waiting around. "I didn't want to make a mistake of being too greedy and trying to wait and wait, get myself in a hole and wait to the last minute," Benoit said.
- Astros GM Ed Wade told Stephen Goff of the Houston Astros Examiner that he expects better things from Carlos Lee in 2011 and that last year was an "aberration" for the outfielder.
Sunday night linkage..
- The risk factor in signing Carl Crawford depends on the length of the deal given to him, tweets Sean McAdam of CSNNE.com.
- In a pinch-hitting appearance, Manny Ramirez was ejected from today's game after the very first pitch for arguing balls and strikes. Andrew Baggarly of the Mercury News wonders (via Twitter) if the slugger intentionally got himself tossed.
- Nats GM Mike Rizzo says that Livan Hernandez deserved to receive a contract extension before the season's end, writes Gene Wang of the Washington Post.
- The Orioles will end their 53-season relationship with Bluefield, West Virginia where the club has its Rookie-level affiliate, writes Dan Connolly of The Baltimore Sun.
4:21pm: MLB.com's Bill Ladson tweets that Hernandez received an incentive-laden contract with a $1MM base salary. If he can come anywhere near his 2010 performance, he'll be a steal at that price. Livan's been a 2.7 WAR pitcher so far, and Fangraphs values his performance at $10.7MM.
Hernandez has been a pleasant surprise for the Nationals in 2010, to say the very least. Expected to be a marginal innings eater at best, he's instead posted a 3.49 ERA through 175.1 innings. His minimal strikeout totals (4.7 K/9) are expected, but complemented with Hernandez's usual strong control (2.8 BB/9).
The Nationals can use all the rotation help they can get, on the heels of the news that phenom Stephen Strasburg has a significant tear of his ulnar collateral ligament and will likely undergo Tommy John surgery.
It may be unfair to expect an encore performance of the reborn Hernandez in 2011; he's allowing his fewest number of hits (almost exactly one per inning) since his All-Star campaign in 2004 with the Washington franchise when they were still based in Montreal. Still, if he can continue to limit the walks and home runs, he's a low-risk option to be a serviceable rotation arm at a reasonable price.
The Cardinals are targeting Jake Westbrook, rival teams tell ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark. The Cards are no longer pursuing Aaron Cook or Livan Hernandez, since they’re focused on the Indians right-hander. However, Stark hears that there’s just a 50% chance of a trade.
The Indians don’t want to absorb salary in a deal, but Westbrook will make about $4MM between now and the end of the season. He also obtains a $2MM bonus if the Indians trade him.
The Cardinals have been looking for an innings eater and Westbrook fits that description. The 32-year-old has posted a 4.65 ERA in 127.2 innings, with 5.1 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9. Westbrook is scheduled to face the Blue Jays tomorrow.
Links for Sunday, as Jim Thome cranks his 576th career home run....
- Reds GM Walt Jocketty tells MLB.com's Mark Sheldon that he's actively talking to clubs, but nothing is imminent.
- MLB.com's Corey Brock offers his opinion (via Twitter) of how the Padres should prioritize their needs at the deadline: a starting pitcher and middle infield depth.
- CSN's Jim Salisbury tweets that the Astros, Rays, Giants, and Pirates all have scouts at today's Phillies game. Both J.A. Happ and Jayson Werth are appealing to other teams.
- Jim Edmonds implied that he's leaning toward retiring at season's end, writes Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
- A close friend of Josh Byrnes tells Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe that the former Diamondbacks GM has no shortage of job offers. Within the column, Cafardo also speculates on the availability of players such as Joakim Soria, Livan Hernandez, and Mike Gonzalez.
- Rangers president Nolan Ryan reiterated that a right-handed first baseman was at or near the top of the club's wish list, according to Richard Durrett of ESPNDallas.
- Jim Leyland tells Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press that Dave Dombrowski hasn't informed him of any trade targets during the last two weeks. Specifically, Leyland hasn't heard anything about Ted Lilly or Mike Lowell from the Tigers' GM.
- Referring to trade rumors or contract years as a "distraction" is overblown, according to MLB.com's Alyson Footer.
- Frank Fitzpatrick of the Philadelphia Inquirer has six tips for Ruben Amaro Jr. to keep in mind as the trade deadline approaches, while John Tomase of the Boston Herald would like to see Theo Epstein exercise restraint this week.
Speaking to Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post, Livan Hernandez said on Saturday that he would like to return to Washington next season, and that he can picture himself spending the rest of his career in a Nationals uniform.
"To come back again next year, I would be really happy with something like that," said Hernandez. "This is something special, this year with the Nationals. It's a great organization. It's very classy and professional. I'm really happy to be here."
Kilgore notes that the 35-year-old has said he'd like to pitch for four more years, and when asked about the possibility of spending those years (and more) in Washington, Hernandez replied, "I wish. It would be really nice. When I retire, I'm thinking about working in baseball.... If they give me a chance, why not?"
Hernandez has exceeded every expectation the Nats had when they signed him for a minor league deal this winter. He leads the Nats in innings (132.2) by a wide margin, and his 3.12 ERA represents a career-best. Even so, it's hard to imagine any team investing in Hernandez on a multi-year deal, given his 5.45 mark from 2007-09 and his mediocre peripherals this year. If he does pitch four more seasons, Hernandez may end up signing three or four more contracts, whether with Washington or another club.
Players only have six months to establish their value on the free agent market, so every month counts. Let's take a look at some (not all, but some) of the upcoming free agents who have seen their stock rise or fall this June. First, a few players who have seen their free agent stock drop:
- Livan Hernandez - It wasn't an awful month for Hernandez, who posted a 5.12 ERA in June. But he had an improbably low 2.15 ERA entering the month and June showed that he won't be able to sustain that mark with peripherals like his (4.8 K/9, 3.7 BB/9 in June).
- David Eckstein - Eckstein didn't have a bad month, either. He batted .273/.308/.323 and the Padres stayed in the race, but it wasn't long ago that Eckstein appeared to be raising his free agent stock with a standout all-around season.
- Kevin Millwood - It was a rough month for Millwood, who had a sub-4.00 ERA at the end of May, even though he had yet to win at that point. In June, Millwood had an 8.78 ERA and opponents posted a 1.032 OPS against him.
- Ty Wigginton - There's no question that Wigginton, one of Baltimore's top trade chips, had a poor June. He didn't hit a home run and posted a .207/.298/.256 line. He broke out with two exceptional months in April and May, but his stock has since fallen considerably.
And some players who are in position to demand better deals thanks to a big month:
- Cliff Lee - Lee's strong play suggests his early-season abdominal injury is no longer an issue. He has a 1.76 ERA this month and has rattled off four complete game wins in his last five starts. Impressive. No one knows where Lee will be playing August 1st, but this much is certain: he helped his free agent stock this June.
- Ted Lilly - Lilly posted a 2.57 ERA with 7.5 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9 this month, solidifying his place among the top free agent starters this winter.
- Hiroki Kuroda - Back in May, Kuroda seemed poised to attract interest from many clubs after the season. He has posted 8.9 K/9, 3.3 BB/9 and a 2.67 ERA this month against some stiff competition (the Braves, Cardinals, Reds, Yankees and Red Sox).
- Adrian Beltre - Beltre, who will presumably opt out of his contract and seek a multi-year deal this winter, has established himself as a legitimate MVP candidate. He has played strong defense and hit .378/.425/.684 in June.
- Manny Ramirez and Victor Martinez would have been candidates for this list were it not for their recent injuries.
All stats are as of the morning of June 30th. This list is not intended to include all 2011 free agents who have had noteworthy months. Feel free to add more players in the comments.