Table of Contents

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Reds acquire Ramon Hernandez

Today marks the first trade of the offseason for the Reds:

Sent: Ryan Freel, Justin Turner, and Brandon Waring
Acquired: Ramon Hernandez + ~$2 million

First, what the Reds got:

Ramon Hernandez, 32-year old catcher
2005 29 SD 392 10% 5% 21% 0.297 0.290 0.321 0.450 0.160 0.334 5.07 3.8 1.5
2006 30 BAL 560 14% 8% 19% 0.285 0.275 0.343 0.479 0.204 0.352 5.69 10.3 3.1
2007 31 BAL 409 14% 9% 16% 0.284 0.258 0.333 0.382 0.124 0.314 4.30 -5.8 0.9
2008 32 BAL 507 12% 6% 20% 0.265 0.257 0.308 0.406 0.149 0.310 4.13 -8.0 1.0
2009 33 Marcel 494 14% 8%
0.277 0.259 0.322 0.410 0.151 0.320
-5.0 1.1

As a hitter, Hernandez appears fairly unremarkable. Fairly typical strikeout and walk rates, with ok power and contact rates. His BABIP, with the exception of last year (when his line drive rate spiked in the opposite direction) has been pretty consistently in the 280-290 range. No obvious holes, but clearly also not a offensive powerhouse either. One of the things to watch may be his walk rates--in 2006 (his big year) and 2007, it was in the 8-9% range. Marcel thinks it'll return there next season...if it does, that'll get his OBP back closer to league average. He projects as a below average hitter worth about a win (~10 runs) above a replacement hitter.

Except, of course, that he's a catcher. So let's bring his fielding into the mix.

As a catcher, he gets a +1.25 wins/season position adjustment, which, based on his Marcel forecasted PA's, gives him a boost of +0.9 wins.

Last year, he rated as a -7.5 runs below average as a catcher. He received was roughly average in terms of error rate, but was below average in blocking pitches and throwing out baserunners. The previous year, though, he pretty much average: -2 runs below average. However, Fans were extremely critical of his defense last season, which is a departure from the previous year. Jocketty seems to think that there were some attitude/motivations problems associated with drop in performance, so I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and peg his fielding value (relative to position) as the average of the past two season: -4.75 runs, or -0.5 wins.

Total Value and Money Matters
So, putting it all together, we've got +1.1 (offense wins) + 0.9 wins (position adjustment) - 0.5 wins (fielding) = +1.5 wins above replacement next year. Not quite an above average player, but clearly a lot better than what the Reds had. Assuming $4.8 million/win on the free agent market this, that makes his value ~$7.2 million.

In 2010, we can assume he'll lose another half-win in value, so +1 wins * ~$5.3 million/win = $5.3 in value.

He's due to be paid $8 million in 2009, which means he'll be overpaid by roughly $1 million. In 2010, he'd be paid $8.5 million or get a $1 million buyout. If we assume the buyout, then they're overpaying for his production by ~$2 million. And that's reportedly the amount that the Reds received from the Orioles, which means they're getting ~even value on Hernandez's contract.

What the Reds Gave Up

Ryan Freel
2005 29 CIN 431 14% 12% 25% 0.314 0.271 0.368 0.371 0.100 0.345 5.53 8.6 2.1
2006 30 CIN 523 19% 11% 21% 0.330 0.271 0.361 0.399 0.128 0.346 5.61 8.4 2.3
2007 31 CIN 304 15% 6% 18% 0.286 0.245 0.306 0.347 0.101 0.292 3.72 -9.1 -0.1
2008 32 CIN 143 13% 6% 20% 0.342 0.298 0.336 0.359 0.061 0.309 4.14 -2.1 0.2
2009 33 Marcel 302 17% 8%
0.307 0.259 0.328 0.367 0.107 0.312
-5.0 0.5
Freel's hard-nosed style seemingly has resulted in a rash of injuries over the past few years, and with his decline in playing time has also come a decline in his rate production. His walk rate, which was always his best asset, has gone from quite good to bad each of the last two years--either he's getting too aggressive, or pitchers aren't afraid of him anymore.

Marcel thinks his true talent is actually about what he showed last season, but that he'll have more PA's. ... which puts his offensive value at about a half a win above replacement.

As an uber-utility guy, Freel's hard to rate defensively. Fielding-wise, CHONE projects him as dead average at 2B and 3B, +5 runs/season in a corner outfield slot, and -3 runs/season in center field. 2B, 3B, and CF get a +0.25 wins/season position adjustment, while corner outfielders get a -0.75 runs penalty. So, as a ballpark estimate, I'm going to say he's worth ~+0.25 wins/season as a defensive asset. Given his limited playing time estimate, that works out to a grand +0.1 wins projection next season.

Total Value and Money Matters
Overall, I have him as +0.5 wins as a hitter and +0.1 wins as a defender, for a total of 0.6 wins overall in 2009. 0.6 wins * $4.8 million/win = $2.8 million in value. He forecasts as essentially a replacement player by 2010.

He has one year on his contract, which pays $4 million. So the Orioles will be overpaying by roughly $1 million next season, according to these forecasts. That makes an even swap of Freel for [Hernandez plus cash] a trade that balances in the Reds favor, moneywise. And it also balances talent-wise, as Hernandez is clearly a better player than Freel is at this point in both of their declining careers.

...Given that [Hernandez + cash] is better than [Freel], what you think of this deal comes down to what you think of the prospects involved. From my recollections, Justin Turner's a low power middle infielder with some ability to get on base and good (but not brilliant) defensive skills. He's likely to reach AAA next season, but I doubt the majors until 2010. I'm skeptical that he'll start, but he could be a decent bench guy. Waring's a pure power guy with questionable ability to get on base or (especially) make contact. Not sure about his defense, though I think it's ok. He should be in AA next season, which puts his ETA at 2011 if he continues to develop (i.e. making contact).

Neither are of those guys are top prospects, but both are potentially guys who might make the majors at some point and contribute. Or not. If you think those guys are worth more than $1 million and 1 win in extra performance in 2008 (which is effectively what the Orioles are losing and the Reds are gaining with this trade at the MLB levels), you probably don't like this move much. I'm not overly enamored with either prospect, though I like Waring a little bit.

So, I'm going to say this is a pretty even trade that could fill a big need. Assuming Hernandez can bounce back at least a little bit, it may even tilt a bit in the Reds' favor. We'll see.