Thursday, August 20, 2009
Livan Hernandez meets his maker as Billy Wagner returnsPosted by Evan Brunell
Livan Hernandez, 34, who somehow won the No. 5 starting pitcher role for the New York Mets in spring training, has been designated for assignment. The Mets have 10 days to waive, release or trade Hernandez in favor of returning left-handed reliever Billy Wagner.
The release shouldn't come as a surprise at all.
Hernandez's May and June were impressive with a 4-2 record and 3.24 ERA. Past that, he contributed absolutely nothing to the team. His last three starts saw an 0-3 record and 11.30 ERA.
Hernandez figures to be replaced by the 31-year old Tim Redding or 35-year old Nelson Figueroa. Redding has been awful this season as well after coming over from the Washington Nationals. Despite Figueroa's age, he turned in a solid season in Triple-A before being recently called up (and summarily bombed in his start against the Diamondbacks on August 3).
The thing about Hernandez? He actually hasn't been half-bad. His 5.00 K/9 is better than any of his 2008 numbers. His HR/9 is the lowest it's been since 2005 -- but that could just be a function of Citi Field being a pitcher's park. Largely because of these two numbers, his FIP stands at 4.67 which would mark his best FIP since 2005 as well. Kind of curious given his 3.40 BB/9 is the second-highest of his career (2007; 3.48). If you look at xFIP, which I feel is a better indicator of a player's true value, it still comes in under 5.00 at 4.99 -- again, his best xFIP since 2005.
Maybe some other team will take a flier on Hernandez after all.
Moving on to Billy the Kid.
Wagner has missed the past year due to Tommy John surgery. It hasn't impacted his ability to blow fastballs by hitters, though, as scouts have said he looks like the Wagner of old minus some shaky curveball command.
Wagner is being paid a total of $10.5 million on the year with a $8 million club option that can be bought out for $1 million. That club option is certain to be bought out by whatever team he ends up with. With the Mets out of the race, the club is looking to shed any salary it can and Wagner is a prime candidate to go given his ability to immediately step in and be a late-inning option out of the bullpen.
Wagner can serve a contending ballclub a major need: a late-inning left hander to neutralize opponents such as Ryan Howard and Mark Teixeira.
Frankly, I would be shocked if Wagner isn't moved before the August 31 deadline to set postseason-eligible rosters. The payoff is too great, and five of the six division leaders (as well as the A.L. wild card leader, the Red Sox) have plenty of money to go around.
Evan Brunell is currently editor of Fire Brand of the American League, a Red Sox blog he began in 2003. He also scores games at Fenway Park for MLB. He was the co-founder and president of MVN, an independent sports media web site.