Roberto Hernandez Rumors

Free Agent Stock Watch: Roberto Hernandez

Fausto Carmona was a revelation in 2007 with the Indians, his first season as a starter in the Majors.  He tied for tenth in the AL with 215 regular season innings, tacking on another 15 in the postseason.  He finished second in all of baseball with a 64.3% groundball rate, allowing only 16 home runs on the season en route to a 3.06 ERA.  The campaign earned Carmona a fourth-place Cy Young finish, and the Indians locked up the supposed 24-year-old to a four-year deal with three club options in April the following year.

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A hip strain cut Carmona's 2008 season short, and in June of the following year a 7.42 ERA across a dozen starts earned him a demotion to the rookie-level Arizona Summer League – a drastic move.  Carmona had replaced Cliff Lee to earn a rotation spot in '07, and when Lee was traded in July of '09, a spot opened for him again.  He was a little better to close out the year, and furthered his comeback in 2010 with 210 1/3 innings of 3.77 ball and his first All-Star nod.  Carmona even became the Indians' Opening Day starter in 2011.  His ERA was higher in '11, but Carmona was pretty much the same pitcher he had been in '10.  It was enough to get his $7MM club option picked up for 2012.

Then came surprising news in January 2012: Carmona's real name was Roberto Hernandez Heredia, and he was arrested in the Dominican Republic for using a false identity.  He was found to be three years older than originally believed.  Charges were dropped, and Hernandez's name, age, and contract were changed.  He rejoined the Indians to make three starts in August before an ankle sprain ended his season.  Though Hernandez's option price had been reduced from $9MM to $6MM, the Indians still chose to move on last October.

Enter the Rays, always open to a project, whether in terms of a performance issue, an off-the-field issue, or both.  They signed Hernandez to a one-year, $3.25MM deal with another $1.25MM in incentives.  The Rays were not able to obtain a club option, a wise choice by agent Charisse Espinosa-Dash of Draft Pix Sports.  As explained by Bradley Woodrum of FanGraphs, Hernandez has tweaked his repertoire with the Rays.  We're only six starts in, but Hernandez has whiffed more than a batter per inning, a rate to which he's never come close in the Majors.  He's still getting groundballs, too.  A 9.0 K/9 and 50% groundball rate is a rare combination, as a qualified starter hasn't managed the feat since Jon Lester and Francisco Liriano in 2010.  This year, Yu Darvish, A.J. Burnett, Jeff Samardzija, C.J. Wilson, Edwin Jackson, and Hernandez have done it in the early going.

Hernandez's ERA sits at an unimpressive 4.66, because 23.1% of his flyballs have left the yard – the worst rate in baseball.  That home run per flyball rate figures to come down significantly moving forward, and the ERA estimator SIERA suggests Hernandez should be well below 4.00 from here on out if he maintains his skills.  If Hernandez can post a sub-4.00 ERA and pitch close to 200 innings with 175 strikeouts or so, he should be quite popular in a free agent market light on above-average, healthy starting pitchers.  The false identity issue may suppress interest, as well as the question of whether Hernandez can maintain success away from the Rays (assuming he does pitch well for the remainder of the season).  A multiyear deal should still be in order, with two years and $16MM a possible floor.  We'll be following Hernandez closely to see if his volatile stock continues to rise.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


AL East Notes: Pedroia, LaRoche, Smoak, Thome

In an appearance on WEEI radio's Red Sox Hot Stove show (partial transcript provided by WEEI.com's Alex Speier), Dustin Pedroia said he hadn't heard anything from his agents about any talks with the Red Sox about a possible contract extension.  It was reported in November that Boston was interested in extending its second baseman, and Pedroia is eager to pursue such negotiations should they arise. "Obviously, I want to be a Red Sox my whole career and play in that city, turn this whole thing around to get back to where we were my first couple years there," Pedroia said.

Here's the latest from the AL East…

  • The Red Sox are not only disinclined to give Adam LaRoche a three-year contract, but the club also doesn't want to surrender a draft pick to sign the free agent first baseman, tweets Peter Gammons.  Boston has interest in LaRoche as a backup option if Mike Napoli can't be signed, and signing LaRoche would cost the Sox their second-round draft pick since LaRoche turned down a qualifying offer from the Nationals. 
  • Speaking of that Red Sox draft pick, WEEI.com's Rob Bradford looks at why Boston is hesitant to give up that selection.
  • The Orioles "kicked the tires" on trading for Mariners first baseman Justin Smoak in each of the last two offseasons and also rated Smoak highly in his draft year, reports Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun.  Connolly sees Smoak as a good trade target for the O's and wonders if a Smoak-for-Brian Matusz deal would work for both teams.  We heard earlier this week that the Orioles continued to have interest in Smoak, who could be expendable now that Seattle has Kendrys Morales in the fold.
  • Jim Thome is "not an ideal fit" to return to the Orioles, writes MLB.com's Brittany Ghiroli, as manager Buck Showalter would prefer to rotate his regulars through the DH spot.  Earlier this month, Thome said he is open to returning in 2013 for his 23rd Major League season.
  • The Rays' strong recent track record of signing veteran bullpen arms augers well for the Roberto Hernandez signing, writes MLB.com's Bill Chastain.  Hernandez signed a one-year, $3.25MM deal with the Rays earlier this month.

Rays Sign Roberto Hernandez

The Rays announced that they haved signed free agent right-hander Roberto Hernandez to a one-year, Major League contract. The deal is worth $3.25MM, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports. The deal includes $1.85MM in incentives, some of which are based on innings and some of which are based on relief appearances. Topkin reported last week that the Rays were nearing a deal with the 32-year-old, who's represented by Jorge Brito and Charisse Espinosa-Dash.

Hernandez, who was formerly known as Fausto Carmona, made just three appearances at the MLB level this past season because of visa issues related to his identity fraud case. He allowed 15 runs in 14 2/3 innings spread across three late-season starts for the Indians.

Carmona hasn't appeared out of the bullpen since his rookie season, back in 2006. It appears that the Rays are considering him for the rotation and the bullpen based on the incentives in his contract.

Topkin first reported the agreement.



Rays, Roberto Hernandez Nearing Deal

The Rays are nearing a deal with right-hander Roberto Hernandez, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports (on Twitter). The free agent pitcher would provide depth for Tampa Bay's bullpen or rotation. Jorge Brito and Charisse Espinosa-Dash represent the 32-year-old.

As our Transaction Tracker shows, Hernandez would be the first free agent starting pitcher signed to a big league contract by the Rays since Andrew Friedman took over following the 2005 season. The pitcher formerly known as Fausto Carmona allowed 15 runs in 14 2/3 innings spread across three late-season starts for the Indians this year after missing most of the season with visa issues stemming from his identity fraud case.

Hernandez owns a 5.06 ERA since finishing fourth in the 2007 AL Cy Young voting, the second worst mark in baseball behind Luke Hochevar (min. 600 IP). His 56.6% ground ball rate is the fourth best during that time, however.

Mike Axisa contributed to this post.


Ohio Notes: Hernandez, Bourn, Mesoraco, Hannahan

The Indians are still pursuing free agent Kevin Youkilis and still trying to work out a multi-team trade involving Asdrubal Cabrera and the Diamondbacks, reports FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal (Twitter link).  The Tribe is also looking at alternative moves in case Youkilis signs elsewhere or the complicated trade fails to materialize.  We collected the latest items about the Tribe's pursuit of Youkilis and Nick Swisher earlier today on MLBTR and yesterday looked at the latest mountain of speculation surrounding this rumored multi-team deal that also reportedly involves the Rangers, Rays, Mariners, Justin Upton, Derek Holland and a number of young players.

The Reds have generated a lot of buzz this offseason as well, so let's check in on the latest from both of Ohio's clubs…


Free Agent Notes: Hernandez, Feliciano, Youkilis

A fresh batch of free agent notes for Day 1 of the Winter Meetings in Nashville…

  • Roberto Hernandez (the former Fausto Carmona) seeks a one-year deal and has drawn interest from at least five teams including the Indians, reports MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez.  The righty missed most of the 2012 season due to charges of using a false name and difficulty obtaining a visa.
  • Free agent lefty reliever Pedro Feliciano is healthy and intends to pitch in the Puerto Rican Winter League, his agent tells Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports.  The 36-year-old finished up a two-year deal from the Yankees, during which he did not pitch in the Majors at all due to shoulder surgery.
  • Kevin Youkilis doesn't care whether he plays first or third base, agent Joe Bick told Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune.  On a side note, the Reds and Red Sox do not appear to be in on Youk.

Roberto Hernandez Drawing “Healthy” Interest

Right-hander Roberto Hernandez is drawing "healthy" interest on the open market, reports Paul Hoynes of The Cleveland Plain-Dealer (on Twitter). The pitcher formerly known as Fausto Carmona became a free agent when the Indians declined his $6MM option.

Hernandez, 32, missed most of this season due to visa issues stemming from his identity fraud case. He allowed 15 runs in 14 2/3 innings across three starts one year after pitching to a 5.25 ERA in 188 2/3 innings. Hoynes says the Indians are still interested in re-signing Hernandez, who did not crack Tim Dierkes' Top 50 Free Agents List and is fully recovered from a late-season ankle injury.


Quick Hits: Rays, Reynolds, Indians, Durbin

Executive VP of baseball operations Andrew Friedman says the Rays can afford to keep both James Shields and David Price on next year's roster, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports (Twitter link). As I explained this morning, it could be tempting for the Rays to address other needs by trading a frontline starter. For example, the Dodgers are among the teams that could try to obtain Shields from Tampa Bay. Here are today’s links…

  • Mark Reynolds would like to play for the Orioles next year, but he’ll explore his options if he hits the open market, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com reports. "If they non-tender me it wouldn't be very smart of me to not see what else is out there," Reynolds said. The Orioles declined their club option for Reynolds today, and they now have a month to determine whether to tender him a contract through the arbitration process.
  • GM Chris Antonetti suggested there's a slim chance the Indians will re-sign Roberto Hernandez this offseason, MLB.com's Jordan Bastian reports (Twitter links). The chances of re-signing Travis Hafner seem more remote, Bastian writes. The Indians, who declined club options for Hernandez and Hafner earlier today, are not working with a set payroll, according to the GM.
  • All Bases Covered Sports now represents free agent reliever Chad Durbin, ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick reports (Twitter link). Check out MLBTR's Agency Database for current information on players and their agents.
  • Earlier in the week I previewed the top offseason storylines at MLBTR. In case you missed it, there’s a parallel piece running online at USA Today and in this week’s edition of Sports Weekly.

Indians Exercise Option For Jimenez, Decline For Hafner & Hernandez

The Indians have exercised Ubaldo Jimenez's option for 2013, the team announced. Cleveland also declined their options for Travis Hafner and Roberto Hernandez.

Jimenez, 28, will earn $5.75MM next season after pitching to a 5.40 ERA in 31 starts and 176 2/3 innings last year. Given his track record and age, it's a worthy gamble. The 35-year-old Hafner hit .228/.346/.438 in 263 plate appearances this year, and will receive a $2.75MM buyout instead of a $13MM salary. Hernandez, 32, allowed 15 runs in 14 1/3 innings across three starts this year. His option was worth $6MM.


AL Central Links: Volstad, Masterson, Indians, ChiSox

As the World Series shifts to Comerica Park for tomorrow's Game Three, here's the latest from around the AL Central….

  • The Royals' waiver claim pickup of Chris Volstad could be a sign of how the team plans to take a low-cost approach to upgrading its pitching staff, writes Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star.  Royals GM Dayton Moore said free agents "won’t be a long-term answer for us” because the club hopes to have homegrown pitching prospects in the rotation by 2014.  “We’ve got to look internally,” Moore said. “We’ve got to look through trades. We’ve got to look, certainly, through free agency…we might be able to pick off a player or two, but we’re not going to build our team through free agency. It won’t work.”
  • Given the Indians' need for pitching and the cost of acquiring new starters, MLB.com's Jordan Bastian believes the team won't deal starter Justin Masterson (Twitter link).  The groundball specialist has been rumored to be on the trade market following a disappointing 2012 season.
  • Travis Hafner's $13MM team option for 2013 is a sure bet to be bought out by the Indians, tweets Bastian, while the Tribe will likely also decline Roberto Hernandez's $6MM club option.  Ubaldo Jimenez's $5.75MM club option for next season is "expected" to be picked up.  Bastian thinks it's "hard to believe" that the Indians would re-sign the injury-plagued Grady Sizemore as a free agent. 
  • The White Sox face four difficult option decisions on Jake Peavy, Kevin Youkilis, Gavin Floyd and Brett Myers, writes Paul Swydan for ESPN (Insider subscription required).  Swydan opines that Floyd is a more proven rotation candidate than Myers and "if only one option of the two is picked up, it should be Floyd's," while Youkilis could be a good candidate to be retained given Chicago's lack of depth at third base.  Peavy's $22MM option "is difficult to justify" given his injury history, though Swydan notes that Peavy provided close to $20MM worth of value during his healthy 2012 season.
  • In other White Sox news, Hahn discussed Peavy's option and more in his introductory press conference as the club's new general manager.