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.
In 23 starts, Hernandez pitched 135 innings, checking in at an unimpressive 5.47 ERA. Think that ERA is bad? Well, the ERA lowest ERA since his 2007 season with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He had a 5.48 ERA in 23 starts with Minnesota before moving on to Colorado last year and checking in at an unsightly 8.03 ERA in eight starts. Let it be noted that at least Livan made progress.
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.
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.