Now that the Rays have made the Roberto Hernandez signing official and we know how much *gulp* he will make, let’s speculate on why the Rays made this deal. In the press release, the Rays do refer to Hernandez as a “starting pitcher.” Of course, he hasn’t made a relief appearance since 2006, so that may not mean anything. However, Andrew Friedman did tell Marc Topkin that Hernandez will compete for a spot in the rotation. Then again, the Rays also told Pat Burrell he would get a chance to play in the outfield, and we all knew that was never going to happen.
So, why would the Rays give a guaranteed $3.25 million to a guy that looks like he is going to replace Burke Badenhop in middle relief? Ultimately, one of two things must be going on…
1) The Rays are planning to trade another starting pitcher — While certainly possible, it seems unlikely that this is the reason for signing Hernandez. Unless Friedman has a trade already in place, it is a risk to sign a starting pitcher under the assumption that another pitcher will be traded. There is no guarantee that another team will give the Rays what they are seeking in any particular deal. And Friedman is not the sort to take gambles. It also seems unlikely that a trade is imminent as this signing has been known about for a week and it would be unusual to keep a trade waiting that long.
2) The Rays are hoping he will be a good starting pitcher (or a great long reliever) and they can flip him at the trade deadline for some prospects — He might be overpriced as a reliever*. But if he is a good starting pitcher, he’s a steal. That doesn’t add much value to the 2013 Rays as it is unlikely that he will be significantly better than Cobb or Niemann (although it is possible). But he could be valuable to another team.
Ultimately, this is a risky signing, as Friedman admits (see below). Maybe he turns back into an all-star pitcher. The Rays have a good history of salvaging pitchers, but they have never done it with a starter before. Or maybe he goes to the bullpen for the first time in 7 years and dominates. Again, they have a good track record with relievers. But can they have the same success with an older starting pitcher? We’ll see.
*I say overpriced in the sense that, if he is a very good/great reliever he will give the Rays $3-4 million in value. That means they might break even on the deal. But the Rays don’t typically like to break even on players, especially in the bullpen. They prefer value. And even if he is a very good reliever, there is no value to be had here.
THE JUNKYARD DOGS WEBTOPIA…
- Andrew Friedman calls Roberto Hernandez “one of those risk-reward stories.” [TampaBay.com]
- Matt Bush gets 3.5 years in prison. He accepted an extra year of prison in lieu of probation, which was referred to as a “disaster waiting to happen.” [TampaBay.com]
- David Price said he was going to buy a Twinkie on eBay that he autographed. [Big League Stew]
- Josh Freeman, good at turning the ball over. [BI Chart]
- The Bucs set a dubious record. [JoeBucsFan]