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.

Mike Trout has a torn thumb ligament, could require surgery

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Yesterday Mike Trout left the Marlins-Angels game after hurting his thumb while sliding head first into second base. After the game the Angels talked about it as if it were just a sprain. Trout had an MRI today, however, and the diagnosis is far worse: he has a torn thumb ligament.

While a treatment option has not yet been chosen, surgery is a possibility. A certainty is that he’ll miss, at the very least, several weeks of play. He has been placed on the disabled list for the first time in his career.

Trout, the reigning AL MVP and, without question, the best player in baseball, is batting .337/.461/.742 with 16 home runs, 36 RBI, 36 runs scored, and 10 stolen bases in 206 plate appearances this season. Even with the one of the weaker supporting casts in baseball, Trout had the Angels near .500 and in at least arguable contention in the AL West.

Without him, they are likely sunk. Without him, baseball is worse off.

Basebrawl! Harper, Strickland punch away, Nats-Giants fight

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SAN FRANCISCO — Nationals slugger Bryce Harper and San Francisco reliever Hunter Strickland both landed punches to the head during a wild brawl that erupted Monday after a hit by pitch.

Harper was hit in the right hip by Strickland’s 98 mph fastball in the eighth inning with Washington ahead 2-0.

Harper pointed the bat toward Strickland, charged the mound and fired his batting helmet wide of the pitcher. They started to swing away and they each connected as the benches and bullpens emptied.

At least two Giants players forcefully dragged Strickland from the middle of the brawl all the way into the dugout. Harper and Strickland were both ejected.

In the 2014 NL Division Series, Harper hit two home runs off Strickland. After the star’s second shot, in Game 4, he stared at Strickland as he rounded the bases.