The Yankees agreed to a minor league contract with veteran right-hander David Hernandez, as was first reported by Conor Foley of the Scranton Times-Tribune (via Twitter). The Yankees didn’t make any formal announcement of the move, but Hernandez actually pitched last night for the team’s Triple-A club.
Hernandez, 34, was released by the Reds on Sunday after struggling through most of the 2019 season. The veteran signed a two-year, $5MM contract with Cincinnati prior to the 2018 season and pitched well in the first year of that deal, logging a 2.53 ERA with 9.1 K/9, 2.4 BB/9, 0.84 HR/9 and a 32.9 percent ground-ball rate. The 2019 season has fallen on the opposite end of the spectrum, though, as Hernandez was shellacked for an 8.02 earned run average in 42 2/3 innings.
Hernandez has already allowed more homers (seven) than he did in 64 innings last year (six), and his BB/9 mark has jumped from 2.4 to 4.2. That said, he’s averaged 11.2 strikeouts per nine inning pitched, the second-best mark of his career, and has actually seen his velocity improve over last year. After averaging 93 mph on his heater in 2018, Hernandez is averaging 93.6 mph in that regard in 2019. He’s also sitting on career-highs in swinging-strike rate (14.7 percent) and opponents’ chase rate (35.3 percent).
While his diminished control has certainly been a factor in his poor results, Hernandez has also been plagued by a .393 average on balls in play and a fluky 54.5 percent strand rate. That BABIP is the second-highest mark of any pitcher in baseball with at least 40 innings pitched (trailing only Milwaukee’s Corbin Burnes), and only three pitchers have seen a lower left-on-base percentage in 2019. Hernandez carries a career 75 percent strand rate, making this season’s alarmingly low rate seem all the more likely to be an aberration.
There’s no guarantee that the veteran Hernandez will round back into form in a new setting, but he’ll look to right the ship in a lower-pressure setting with Triple-A Scranton — likely in hopes of emerging as a September callup for the Yankees. New York would only owe Hernandez the prorated league minimum for any time he spends on the big league roster, as the Reds will remain on the hook for the rest of this season’s $2.5MM salary.