Orlando Hernandez Rumors

Mets Dangled El Duque

According to SI.com’s Jon Heyman:

The Mets quietly sought trade offers for Orlando Hernandez late this winter, with the idea that if anyone bit, they would sign Kyle Lohse. But apparently there were no takers.

Swapping El Duque’s 140-150 innings for Lohse’s 190 might add a few wins, given the replacement level pitchers the Mets went to in ’07.   Hernandez at $6.5MM isn’t  terribly appealing though.  The Mets could probably get Lohse for a similar amount on a one-year deal.  Maybe they still should and just force Hernandez into the bullpen whether he likes it or not.

Odds and Ends: El Duque, Rays, Botts, Cruz

Today’s linkage…

  • RotoAuthority tries to decide what to do with the fourth pick in a fantasy draft.
  • The rumor about the Royals moving to the NL seems unfounded.
  • Sean McAdam says the Red Sox will keep an eye on the free agent pitching market, but don’t intend to spend much.
  • El Duque has all sorts of problems, which I won’t go into.   Maybe he’s just down on his luck,  but he indicated a 50/50 chance of this being his last season.  He’ll earn $6.5MM, and PECOTA calls for a 4.08 ERA in 98 innings.
  • DRays Bay talked to team owner Stu Sternberg.  Sternberg mentioned that he reads Rays Index, the blog of MLBTR contributor Cork Gaines.
  • Evan Grant compares Rangers Jason Botts and Nelson Cruz, one of whom will not be with the team by Opening Day.  They are among many on our Out of Options – 2008 list, which is growing by the hour.

Mets Re-Sign El Duque

The Mets inked Orlando Hernandez for two years and $6MM.  For that price, who can complain?

So far the only locks for the 2007 rotation in my mind are Hernandez and John Maine.  Of course, there are plenty of remaining options.  Keep in mind that El Duque hasn’t topped 161 innings for a while now, so the team will have to use its sixth or seventh starters.

Here’s a look at the current state of the starting pitching free agent market.

UPDATE: The deal would be a lot less desirable at double the price, which is what Ken Rosenthal is reporting.

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.

White Sox Obtain Javier Vazquez

In a move that took both me and Mark Gonzales by surprise, the White Sox acquired starter Javier Vazquez for center fielder Chris Young (plus the unwanted salaries of Orlando Hernandez and Luis Vizcaino).  Whenever a defending World Champion makes a couple of major trades, the GM is inevitably described as "bold" in the media.  I'm not sure whether I count as a member of the media, but "bold" is getting cliche.  Check out some of these synonyms:  spunky, audacious, gritty.  I think I'll call Kenny Williams spunky when referencing the Vazquez and Thome deals.

If you're a Sox fan, you can't possibly dislike this trade.  It's a classic Williams "win now" move.  He's been doing this for years, dealing can't-miss prospects for all sorts of players.  And why not?  The White Sox have raised tons of failed #1 prospects through the years.  Remember Scott Ruffcorn, Chris Snopek, Mike Caruso, Jon Rauch, and Joe Borchard

Williams was dealing from a position of strength in center field.  The 22 year-old Young was ranked #7 among White Sox prospects by Baseball America entering the 2005 season. (If you're curious, Gio Gonzalez and Daniel Haigwood, who were used in the Thome deal, ranked #8 and #19, respectively).  Young is a skinny, speedy athletic guy with good power.  He hit .277/.377/.545 in Double A this year and plays a mean center field.  Baseball America compares him to Mike Cameron and says he'll be ready by 2007.  By that time, the D-Backs' young outfield should be in full force, boasting Carlos Quentin, Young, and maybe Conor Jackson.

But the White Sox have no reason to worry about 2007.  In Vazquez, the club has added a durable innings eater with solid peripheral stats.  By that I mean he strikes people out and keeps the walks down.  Home runs have been an issue for the last couple of years, and it ain't gettin' better at U.S. Cellular.  In fact, the Cell will exacerbate the problem.  Still, Vazquez can be counted on for 400 innings of at least league average pitching for the next two years, which is plenty valuable.  The fact that Arizona took the washed-up Orlando Hernandez and might give the Sox some cash makes the deal look even better for Chicago.   

I'll probably break out a RotoAuthority projection for Vazquez later today, but for now let's see what Bill James's minions came up with.  They expect Vazquez to go 12-11 with a 3.85 ERA over 211 innings in '06.  Projected WHIP is 1.25, and a 7.8 K/9 is predicted.  Of course, the effects of U.S. Cellular and the AL aren't factored into that projection.