Roberto Hernandez Rumors
In his first full season in 2007, Indians starter Fausto Carmona finished fourth in the AL Cy Young voting. After some ups and downs, he seemed settled in as a mid-rotation arm with some upside, until he was arrested in January 2012 in the Dominican Republic for using a false identity. Carmona, now known as Roberto Hernandez, was found to be three years older than originally believed. After a brief return to the Indians, the Rays swooped in and signed him for a meager $3.25MM guarantee on a one-year deal this past offseason.
Among qualified pitchers, Hernandez ranks sixth in baseball with a 53.1% groundball rate. And that's down from Hernandez's groundballing peak, as he was above 63% in 2007-08. A high groundball rate is almost never a bad thing, but we'll elaborate later in the post.
Hernandez has exhibited strong control this year with a 2.1 BB/9, a career best. He's also authoring a career-best strikeout rate at 6.8 per nine. The resulting 3.23 K/BB ratio ranks seventh among free agent starters.
The ERA estimator SIERA suggests the skills Hernandez has displayed this year are good for a 3.58 mark. Among free agents, only A.J. Burnett and Dan Haren have done better in this regard, and Hernandez bests pitchers such as Matt Garza, Ervin Santana, Tim Lincecum, Hiroki Kuroda, Ricky Nolasco, Ubaldo Jimenez, and Bronson Arroyo, who will all receive larger commitments.
It is impossible to picture the Rays extending a qualifying offer to Hernandez, so he won't come with draft pick compensation issues like Santana, Kuroda, and perhaps Lincecum.
If you're a believer in the predictive value of ERA, you won't be inspired by Hernandez's 4.89 figure this season. It's hard to defend a pretty K/BB ratio as a pitcher gets battered -- for example, Hernandez allowed four runs on ten hits in 5 1/3 innings against the Tigers on June 6th, and he doesn't get extra credit for striking out six and walking one that day. Hernandez has allowed nearly ten hits per nine innings this year, which stands out even if we quietly note his slightly elevated .309 batting average on balls in play.
We also have to talk about home runs allowed. In theory, keeping the ball in the yard should be among Hernandez's biggest strengths, since he gets so many groundballs. In reality, he's allowed 1.28 home runs per nine innings in 352 frames since 2011. This year, he's at 1.45 -- third worst in the game among qualified starters. A whopping 21% of Hernandez's flyballs have cleared the fence, twice the MLB average this year. Nearly a quarter of the flyballs hit against Hernandez by left-handed batters have gone for home runs this year. While it's fairly safe to assume Hernandez won't reach those heights again in 2014, it's also fair to say he's worse than the average pitcher at keeping flyballs in the yard, and the ERA estimators are giving him too much credit.
Hernandez was a member of one of the game's deepest rotations, and was demoted to the bullpen in September with the Rays having better options. Even if he might still be in the rotation for many other clubs, it's not a good development for a pitcher heading back into free agency.
Hernandez has three brothers and three sisters, according to the Rays' media guide, and spent part of the offseason working with the cattle at his family's farm in the Dominican Republic. He's in touch with nature, doing much of his offseason running in the mountains near the farm. Hernandez is married, with three children.
It's too early to pin down potential suitors for Hernandez, as there are a large number of teams that could plug him into the back end of their rotation on the cheap. He reportedly drew interest from at least five teams last offseason. Hernandez seems like a free agent who could sign in January, after the bigger names are off the board. For certain clubs with weak rotations, he could be a big fish in a small pond. From what we've heard, Hernandez has his mind set on returning to a starting role in 2014.
Despite his struggles, Hernandez is in better shape than he was a year ago, when he barely pitched due to his identity fraud situation. Agent Charisse Espinosa-Dash will likely set out seeking two guaranteed years, and I view the two-year, $10MM deals signed by Carlos Villanueva, Kevin Correia, and Chris Capuano as Hernandez's ceiling. Back in May, when it seemed likely his home run per flyball rate would come down, I pictured a Brandon McCarthy/Joe Blanton-type contract in the two-year, $16MM range. Ultimately, since Hernandez will pitch at 33 next year and didn't finish strong, I predict a one-year, $5MM contract, plus incentives.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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...
- Roberto Hernandez isn't expected to sign soon despite "a good market" for his services, reports Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer (via Twitter). The Indians remain interested in re-signing Hernandez, who also has at least four other suitors.
- Reds GM Walt Jocketty didn't have any discussions about Michael Bourn with agent Scott Boras during the Winter Meetings, reports MLB.com's Mark Sheldon. Jocketty doesn't see Bourn as a fit in Cincinnati as the center fielder's asking price “would have to really fall."
- The Reds aren't going to trade Devin Mesoraco, a team insider tells John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer (Twitter link). The young catcher was rumored to be a target of the Rays, who were trying to involve another club in a three-team trade that would bring Mesoraco to Tampa Bay.
- There is a "good chance" the Reds sign free agent infielder Jack Hannahan, a baseball source tells Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities radio (via Twitter). The Twins have dropped out of the running, though such teams as the White Sox, Marlins and Yankees are among the teams known to share the Reds' interest in Hannahan.
- As reported earlier today, the Reds agreed to terms with Ryan Ludwick and have talked to the Rockies about a trade for Dexter Fowler.
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.
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.
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.
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.