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Reds swing a nice deal on veteran Hernandez

Nov 16, 2009, 4:48 PM EST

ramon hernandez braun.jpgWith all of the rumors swirling about budgetary problems potentially forcing a Brandon Phillips deal, some will be surprised that the Reds didn’t simply let Ramon Hernandez leave as a free agent. After all, Ryan Hanigan is younger, makes the minimum and was a more effective player than Hernandez last season. The Reds could have simply gone with Hanigan and a cheap backup and saved themselves $2.5 million next year.
Hernandez, though, was worth trying again at the modest $3 million price tag the Reds got him to agree to. Even better, they got a vesting $3.25 million option for 2011 as part of the deal. That option comes without a buyout and doesn’t lock in unless Hernandez appears in 120 games.
That’s a key factor, because Hernandez won’t reach 120 games by accident. He’ll only play in 120 games if he both stays healthy and outperforms Hanigan, and if he pulls off both of those feats, then the Reds were almost certainly going to want him back at such a reasonable salary anyway.
And Hernandez is the better bet of the two, if only slightly. Hanigan has a nice track record when it comes to OBP, but it’s worth noting that seven of his 37 walks last year were intentional. Take those out of the equation and he’s left with a .266/.344/.331 line, compared to Hernandez’s .258/.332/.362 mark. Hanigan has never hit for power at any level, and it’s also unclear whether he’s physically capable of handling the load over a full season. He’s never caught more than 100 games in a year as a pro.
For what it’s worth, Hernandez has also been more productive over the course of his career than career .262/.327/.417 line suggests. He’s spent a lot of time in strong parks for pitchers, and he’s been about as clutch as anyone in the game. Over the course of his career, he’s hit .241/.307/.397 with the bases empty, .288/.349/.440 with runners on and .287/.357/.453 with RISP. He’s 33 now and clearly on the decline, but if the Reds give him a fair amount of rest, he should be good for a dozen homers and his typical .330-.340 OBP.

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