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.

Phillies walk off winners thanks to a poor decision by Marcell Ozuna

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The Phillies’ bullpen, which has not been good as of late, gift-wrapped Monday’s game for the Cardinals. Starter Nick Pivetta was brilliant, fanning 13 while allowing two runs in 7 1/3 innings. But things unraveled after he left the game. Victor Arano took over for Edubray Ramos to start the ninth inning with the Phillies leading 4-2, but he allowed a one-out single and a double. After striking out Harrison Bader, Arano appeared to strike out Yairo Munoz for the final out of the game, but the ball trickled through the legs of catcher Andrew Knapp, allowing a run to score and the tying run to move to third base. Lefty Adam Morgan came in to face pinch-hitter Kolten Wong. Wong tied the game up, sneaking a single into center field.

In the 10th inning, Jake Thompson gave up the go-ahead run on a leadoff home run to Tommy Pham. It seemed like it was just going to be another one of those losses that have become increasingly common for the Phillies lately. But the Phillies’ offense didn’t go down quietly, even though it hadn’t put a runner on second base since the start of the second inning when J.P. Crawford doubled. In the bottom half of the 10th, Hoskins blooped a single into shallow left-center to start the inning. Hoskins moved to second base on a ground out from Odubel Herrera. Matt Bowman intentionally walked Carlos Santana, then struck out Jesmuel Valentin. That brought up Aaron Altherr, who replaced Nick Williams after Williams took a baseball to the face off of the right field fence. Bowman fell behind 2-1, then threw a 90 MPH fastball that Altherr lined into left field. Rather than keep the ball in front of him, Marcell Ozuna decided to dive for the ball to make the final out, but he missed. The ball trickled past him, allowing the tying and the game-winning runs to score, giving the Phillies a come-from-behind win.

On the list of people happy to see Ozuna miss that ball are Altherr (of course), Arano, Morgan, and Thompson. But perhaps no one was happier than manager Gape Kapler. The win might help take the heat off of him somewhat after another poor performance from the bullpen. When a team struggles, everyone wants a scapegoat and Kapler is an easy target. He has been all year, undeservingly.

Phillies radio broadcaster and former major league reliever Larry Anderson said after the bullpen meltown, “Not everybody can pitch in the ninth inning. And I know Gabe Kapler thinks they can, but they can’t.” Aside from Ramos and Seranthony Dominguez (who was unavailable after throwing 52 pitches between Saturday and Sunday in Milwaukee), no one in that bullpen has been reliable. The closer, Hector Neris, just got optioned to Triple-A. You work with what you have, and right now, Kapler doesn’t have a whole lot. Thankfully for him, he wasn’t punished with another loss thanks to Ozuna.