A few minutes before dashing off to catch a plane home from the winter meetings, Ruben Amaro told reporters that he was close to signing a free agent pitcher. He was asked how that pitchers compared to Kyle Kendrick in the No. 1 through No. 5 hierarchy of a rotation.
"About the same," the GM said.
He wasn't lying. Roberto Hernandez, who you may know better as one-time Indians hot shot Fausto Carmona, is almost a carbon copy of Kendrick. He uses a sinker to get groundballs at a rate similar to Kendrick (a very good rate). He throws that sinker about as often as Kendrick does, albeit a tick or two harder. He uses a changeup about as often as Kendrick, and he also throws a slider (Kendrick's is more of cutter).
The difference is that Hernandez has a bit more upside, and a bit more downside. He has two 200+ innings under his belt, and might have notched a third last season if he had not spent some time in the bullpen. The Phillies kept an eye on Hernandez in 2010, when he was still Carmona, before ultimately trading for Roy Oswalt.
Is signing Roberto Hernandez a good move by the Phillies?
This is better than signing Bartolo Colon for two years and $20 million, or Bronson Arroyo for three years. Pitchers like that are more likely to hamper the Phillies' efforts to contend in 2015 and/or 2016 than they are to help them get back to contention this season. Carmona, who will reportedly earn $4.5 million, probably will not impact their chances in either direction. But if he gets off to a hot start like he did in 2007 and 2010, he could end up landing the Phillies something of value on the trade market, assuming they are out of contention by that point.
In short, Hernandez is not the legit No. 2/3 starter the Phillies likely need to have a serious shot at World Series contention. But he has utility. He held righties to a .253/.297 AVG/OBP with a .668 OPS last year. Lefties has long killed him (.305/.369/.537 with 17 HR in 315 AB last year). But he has pitched exclusively in the American League, and it is easier to pitch around hitters in the NL.
At this point, it is all about recalibrating your expectations.
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