Orioles Think Tank

Orioles Coverage for the Information Age

The Ramon Hernandez Signing

Posted by Mike on December 29, 2005

12/12/05

Lost in the hoopla of Miguel Tejada’s bitchfest was the signing of this year’s best free agent catcher, Ramon Hernandez. I imagine hearing the godfather of one of his children practically declare himself on the trading block has dampened a bit of his enthusiasm for Baltimore. Nevertheless, Ramon Hernandez is now the primary catcher for the Baltimore Orioles. Let’s examine how this might work out.

Hernandez signed a 4 year/$27.5 million deal, or about $7 million a year for his ages 30 through 33 seasons. Coming off of a Petco Park induced .290/.322/.450 line in 2005, Hernandez is still best reputed for his glove and his work with pitchers. Seemingly, the only fault one can find with this picture is a startingly low walk rate. However; though he will never be mistaken for Rickey Henderson, his 2005 walk rate is out of line with his career numbers and can be expected to normalize somewhat. So what we have here is a defensive stalwart behind the dish who makes good contact and has some pop. Certainly sounds like he’s worth $7 million to me, and I expect that he will be in 2006 and 2007.

Looking passed these numbers, though, there are some disturbing trends. Hernandez, in the last four years, has caught in 136, 140, 111, and in 2005, 99 games. On top of his declining usage, catchers are always a poor bet to survive their early thirties intact. Among his most comparable players are Dan Wilson, Andy Etchebarren, and Chad Moeller; all of whom entered their decline phases between ages 28-34. That’s not the most positive trend amongst a list of comparables for a guy you just paid $7 million for each of his age 30, 31, 32, and 33 seasons.

Any free agent signing will have it’s proponents and detractors. What is most important is how the signing fits within an organizational philosophy. For instance, the Orioles may be thinking that they can now flip Javy Lopez to a contender for some young talent. They may even be hoping that Hernandez bridges the gap to Brandon Snyder’s triumphant arrival in 2009 or so. Or, they may just have Geronimo Gil and Brook Fordyce so ingrained in their memory that they didn’t care how much the best catcher on the market cost, so long as they never had to experience the humiliations of 2003 again.

Unfortunately, it is much easier to see how this signing does not fit into any sound organizational philosophy. Ramon Hernandez may be worth the money in the early part of his contract, but he is unlikely to be the difference between contending and not contending in those years. And towards the back end of his contract, when the Orioles might be in a better position to contend, he is unlikely to be worth the money.

So, how exactly could Ramon Hernandez fit into the Oriole’s plans? The only way to make this signing make sense is to go balls out to contend in the next two years; something that, for a multitude of reasons, would likely be a mistake. Otherwise, the front office can flip Javy Lopez for something young and useful to help justify this $7 million a year investment. If they don’t, or if you see Darin Erstad wearing Javy’s uniform, you’ll know that the Orioles are just spinning their tires. Without a sound organizational philosophy and specific goals in mind, the Orioles will soon be looking up at four teams in the AL East.

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2 Responses to “The Ramon Hernandez Signing”

  1. […] – Remember when I said this? Ramon Hernandez may be worth the money in the early part of his contract, but he is unlikely to be the difference between contending and not contending in those years. And towards the back end of his contract, when the Orioles might be in a better position to contend, he is unlikely to be worth the money. […]

  2. aylward said

    Nice site. Thank to work…

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