Reds re-sign Ramon Hernandez to one-year deal with 2011 option

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Last week the Reds declined their $8.5 million option on Ramon Hernandez for 2010, choosing to pay him a $1 million buyout instead, but today the two sides agreed to a new one-year deal.
Hernandez will reportedly earn $3 million and the contract also includes a $3.25 million option for 2011 that vests if he appears in 120 games next season. Odds are that it’ll end up simply being a one-year, $3 million deal, because he’s a 34-year-old catcher who played just 81 games this season due to injuries and has appeared in 120 games just twice in the past six seasons.
Hernandez isn’t much of a defensive catcher at this point and saw about one-third of his action at first base before knee surgery ended his season in July, but if healthy he remains productive enough offensively to be worth the modest one-year commitment. He’s hit .258/.324/.387 over the past three seasons, including .258/.336/.362 this year, which is right around the .254/.321/.396 line that MLB catchers as a whole produced in 2009.
However, the Reds could have saved $3 million and simply made Ryan Hanigan their starter behind the plate. He’s five years younger than Hernandez, significantly better defensively, started 72 games in his absence this season, and has hit .266/.363/.341 through 402 plate appearances in the majors. Hanigan doesn’t have as much power as Hernandez, but his glove and on-base skills are significantly better for one-tenth the money.
Having both Hernandez as the starter and Hanigan as the backup obviously isn’t exactly a bad thing, but for a team that’s supposedly in such a payroll crunch that they may be forced to unload high-priced veterans like Brandon Phillips, Bronson Arroyo, and Aaron Harang a few million bucks certainly could have come in handy. Of course, we already knew that planning ahead isn’t exactly the Reds’ strong suit.

Shohei Ohtani is having a brutal spring training

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Spring training is tough for players under the best of circumstances. Even in an age when players work out all year, getting back into the swing of baseball-at-full-speed is tough. Many players spend the bulk of February and March knocking off the rust and getting their timing back. Because of this — and because the games have no real stakes — it is not wise to take spring training statistics super seriously. Especially if the player in question is assured of a spot on the roster and is trying to avoid injury before the regular season arrives.

Spring training for Shohei Ohtani is doubly difficult. Not only does he have to knock the rust off from the offseason, but he (a) has to get used to a new country and language; (b) has to get to know all new teammates, coaches and, really, an entirely new baseball culture; and (c) do all of that while dealing with a media crush that hasn’t been seen in baseball since Ichiro first arrived 17 years ago. In short, Ohtani is under massive pressure and has to make massive adjustments in a short time.

With that said, neither the Angels nor Ohtani can be all that pleased with how his spring training has gone. In two actual major league exhibition games he’s allowed eight runs in two and two-thirds innings. Seven of those came on Friday when he was shelled by the Rockies in an inning and a third. If you include B-games against minor leaguers, he has allowed 17 runs on 18 hits, four of which were homers, in four games. As a hitter he’s 2-for-20.

As Jeff Fletcher of the OC Register notes, Ohtani’s peripherals are not bad, as he has struck out a lot of guys and walked very few and the average on balls in play against him has been brutal, which is not super sustainable. Bad luck and some fat pitches at a time of the year when luck doesn’t really matter and the pitches, because of the rust, are likely to be fatter than normal.

As Fletcher also notes, Nolan Arenado, who faced Ohtani on Friday, said that his stuff looked good and that he’s going to be a good big league pitcher. Ohtani and Angels officials are all striking the right notes about bad luck and adjustments, saying that they’re not worried.

I imagine they’d be worrying even less if things had gone well this spring. Unless of course this is just a professional wrestling-style work aimed at getting more of us to watch his regular season debut, in which he’ll reveal that he was sandbaggin’ all along.