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.


  1. In the evaluation I would subtract .5 win from Hernandez because we are expecting him to be a back up and not get 400-500PA that he has been getting.

    I am hoping he does not get that many because Hanigan defense is better.

  2. I'm basing these numbers purely on Marcel projections of playing time. I'm not sure why you're expecting him to be the reserve, though--Hanigan may be better defensively, but I'm not sure about offensively. I think it's probably true that Hernandez will have to stumble big-time and Hanigan will have to excel for Hanigan to get the "starting" job out of spring training. After that, who knows?

    But even if he does lose the starting job, I think it's ok. The Reds are essentially insuring Hanigan's uncertainty with an even-value contract that they got in an even (or even favorable) trade. If Hernandez plays less, the Reds do lose value on his contract. But they also gain lots of value on Hanigan, because a) he's doesn't make any money, and b) they'll have someone who can start at catcher in 2010.

  3. Offensively I think it depends on what your need is. I suspect that Hanigan would match Hernandez offensively (and Marcel agrees with Hanigan posting a .329 wOBA to Hernandez's .320). I especially like that Hanigan is more on-base oriented than Hernandez. As you know, the Reds are hurting for that. Hernandez will likely have more power, but the Reds already have 4 guys likely to hit 20+ HR. If they aren't getting a 35+ HR threat, which they didn't yet, then I don't think power should be that big of a consideration.

    This doesn't mean that Hanigan will necessarily start, but I think that he should.

    As for the trade, I don't think this move puts them any closer to a winning season. It's a hole they needed to fill, but I think the impact of this deal will be minimal.

  4. Joel,

    Marcel ignores minor league stats, so you're basically just seeing it report that Hanigan'd be a league average hitter because it assumes that every player without MLB playing time will be MLB average. It's not exactly league average because it makes a slight adjustment for his 2008 MLB performance, but it's heavily regressed.

    I don't disagree on the impact of this deal. It doesn't improve the Reds much. Maybe by a win. Long way to go before the team becomes competitive.

  5. I don't have much of a problem with this trade because we didn't give up much and are getting cash. Though the idea of giving up young guys for marginal old ones always irks me a bit.

    The problem I have is, isn't this guys just David Ross? We already had this guy last year, didn't play him, let him go, and kept 2 worse catchers (or 1.5 if you don't think Javy is much of a catcher). I know he was a free agent at the end of the season and can't seem to find the numbers that Atlanta gave him, but I think we could've signed him for less than Hernandez is going to be paid and not given up anyone.

  6. Yeah, I never understood releasing Ross when we had Valentin and Bako still on the roster. I'm willing to think that Hernandez might be a better hitter (though I'm not sure about that), but Ross is probably a better defender. I think you're right that they might be comparable players. Hernandez seems a bit less risky, but not dramatically so.

  7. Justin, 2009 catching must be a great improvement over 2008. Bako was horrific. Do you really think that this catching line up will only improve the reds by 1 game?

  8. Bako's a better defender than Hernandez, which pushed Bako into replacement player territory last season despite the complete worthless as a hitter after the first month. Hernandez projects to ~1.5 WAR next year. So yeah, this makes the Reds a win or two better than that.

    I'm not sure that Hernandez + Hanigan is more than a win or so better than Hanigan + replacement player. Maybe. Maybe not. -j

  9. Justin - does this mean that Jockety is a sabermatrician? You and he seem to harmonize on this deal.

    I was glad to read something more positive than the usual sniping. Thanks for the thoughtful piece.

  10. Not sure that I'd say he's sabermetrically-oriented. I'd like to think the Reds did a similar analysis to what I did here to evaluate these guys and put $$ figures on them.

    But it probably is true that a lot of the old school baseballers will "instinctively" come to something that's pretty close to what a sabermetrician would come up with. It's just that they won't always, and when there's a disagreement, the saber-types seem to do better. Sean Smith (did I mention I was now his groupie?) did a nice rundown of transactions where "we" (at Tango's blog) thought a deal was "high" or "low" here.

    The result? If teams listened to what was written at Tango's blog, they'd save far more money than they'd lose.

    As for sniping, do you mean my own blog, or other people's? :) I've been bitter enough the past season or so that I'm sure I've done my share.

  11. What about involving in the equasion the division he played in with the O's? That has to be one of the toughest with the likes of the Yankees, Red Sox and "Just" Rays.

    Also, how will he adjust to the pitching in the NL and ahead of the pitcher?

  12. Hernandez does get a boost in my historical numbers of a half-win per season for playing in the superior AL (I don't worry about one I know of gets into that level of detail, but the differences are probably minimal).

    Marcel, however, doesn't know about league differences (or park factors, for that matter)--he's only a monkey, after all. But because of that, we legitimately expect that Hernandez could outperform his Marcel by a half-win or so per season (maybe 0.3 wins if we pro-rate to playing time).

    As for hitting 8th, I think there was a study sometime in the past year at THT that indicated players hit better in the 8th spot than other spots in the lineup. So that also might give him a boost, if he does indeed hit 8th.

  13. By 'sniping' I meant around the blogs, and not here. It seems a trade seldom goes down that anyone is happy with or wouldn't do differently.