Reds swing a nice deal on veteran Hernandez

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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.

Phil Bickford suspended 50 games for drug of abuse

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 10:  Phil Bickford of the U.S. Team pitches during the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game at PETCO Park on July 10, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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Brewers’ right-hander Phil Bickford received a 50-game suspension after testing positive for a drug of abuse, per the Los Angeles Times’ Bill Shaikin. This is the second time Bickford has been suspended for recreational drug use, as he was previously penalized in 2015 after testing positive for marijuana prior to the amateur draft.

Bickford was selected by the Giants in the first round of the 2015 draft and was later dealt to the Brewers for lefty reliever Will Smith at the 2016 trade deadline. He finished his 2016 campaign in High-A Brevard County, pitching to a 3.67 ERA, 10.0 K/9 rate and 5.0 BB/9 over 27 innings.

Two other suspensions were handed down on Friday, one to Toronto minor league right-hander Pedro Loficial for a positive test for metabolites of Stanozolol and one to Miami minor league outfielder Casey Soltis for a second positive test for drugs of abuse. Loficial will serve a 72-game suspension, while Soltis will serve 50 games. All three suspensions are due to start at the beginning of the 2017 season for each respective minor league team.

Brewers’ GM David Stearns issued a statement after the Commissioner’s Office announced Bickford’s suspension (via Vince Lara-Cinisomo of Baseball America):

We are very disappointed to learn of Phil’s suspension, but we fully support the Minor League Baseball Drug Prevention and Testing Program and its enforcement by the Commissioner’s Office. Phil understands he made a mistake, and we fully anticipate that he will learn from this experience.

Diamondbacks sign Fernando Rodney to a one-year, $2.75 million deal

PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 21:  Fernando Rodney #56 of the Miami Marlins pitches during the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates on August 21, 2016 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***
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Confirming a report from Tuesday, the Diamondbacks officially signed right-hander Fernando Rodney to a one-year, $2.75 million contract on Friday. The 39-year-old stands to receive up to $4 million in incentives, per Jack MacGruder of FanRag Sports, with $250,000 kicking in when the veteran reaches 40, 50 and 60 appearances and $500,000 if he reaches 70.

Rodney came three games shy of the 70-appearance mark in 2016 during back-to-back stints with the Padres and Marlins. He put up a cumulative 3.44 ERA on the year, which effectively disguised the extreme split during his performances in San Diego and Miami. The Diamondbacks aren’t anywhere close to contending in 2017, but Rodney should stabilize the back end of their bullpen while providing Arizona GM Mike Hazen with a potential trade chip during next year’s deadline.

Hazen issued a statement following the signing:

With Fernando, we’re getting an established Major League closer and a veteran presence in the bullpen. It is helpful to have someone with his experience on the back end to slow the game down and get the final three outs.