The 34-year-old Hernandez had signed with New York on a minor league pact back on Aug. 15 after a disastrous season with the Reds, but he didn’t fare much better in his brief time with his new organization. Playing out the second season of a two-year, $5MM contract signed with the Reds in the 2017-18 offseason, Hernandez turned in a ghastly 8.02 ERA in 42 2/3 innings with Cincinnati. While he averaged a hefty 11.2 punchouts per nine innings pitched, the well-traveled righty also averaged 4.2 walks and 1.48 homers per nine frames.
More than anything, Hernandez appeared to be plagued by a gaudy .393 average on balls in play and a 54.5 percent strand rate that checked in more than 20 percent worse than his career rate. The Yankees took a no-risk flier on both of those numbers being aberrations, but Hernandez was tagged for six earned runs on five hits and eight walks through just seven innings in Scranton. He did tally 11 strikeouts, but the Yankees didn’t see enough to bring him north as a September call-up (as they did with veterans Ryan Dull and Tyler Lyons).
The release could mark the end of the season for Hernandez, although his track record should generate offseason interest. The right-hander put together terrific results just a year ago in Cincinnati when he notched a 2.53 ERA with 9.1 K/9, 2.4 BB/9 and 0.84 HR/9 over the life of 64 innings. He missed the 2014 season due to injury but has otherwise averaged 63 appearances per season with a 3.39 ERA, 10.0 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9 dating back to 2011.
Hernandez hasn’t lost any zip on his fastball from recent seasons — to the contrary, his 93.6 mph average is actually up from last year’s 93.0 mph mark — and his ability to induce whiffs is as strong as ever. This year’s 14.7 percent swinging-strike rate and 35.3 percent opponents’ chase rate on pitches outside the strike zone are career-highs, in fact. Hernandez has above-average spin on his fastball, and the .065-point gap between his actual opponents’ wOBA (.380) and expected wOBA (.315), per Statcast, is the ninth-largest in the league among pitchers who’ve faced at least 100 hitters. Overall, he looks like a solid bounceback candidate, though this season’s struggles could force him to settle for a minor league contract this winter.