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Freel traded for Ramon Hernandez

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It looks like it's a done deal.  From Rosenthal:

The Reds have reached preliminary agreement with the Orioles on a trade that will send catcher Ramon Hernandez to Cincinnati for outfielder Ryan Freel and two prospects, according to a major-league source.

The deal is pending the approval of the commissioner's office, because it involves a cash transaction of more than $1 million.

On Monday, major-league sources said the deal would not be completed unless the Orioles picked up a significant portion of Hernandez's remaining salary.

Hernandez is owed $8 million in 2009 with a club option of $8.5 million or a $1 million buyout for 2010, meaning he is guaranteed $9 million.

The two questions are how much money and who are the prospects.  We'll wait judgment on those two items until we have more information.

Three years ago, Hernandez was one of the top catchers in the game.  The problem is that catchers don't tend to age well, and Hernandez is no exception.  Here's his last 3 years numbers:

2006 560 23 91 1 .275 .343 .479 .352 24.3 3.7 35.6
2007 409
1 .258 .333 .382 .314 4.5 -2.1 8.4
2008 507
65 0 .257 .308 .406 .310 5.9 -7.5 5.5

His projections aren't all that appealing as a hitter:

Bill James
.261 .324 .417 .327
Marcel .259 .323 .410 .320

Compare those to Ryan Hanigan

Bill James
.275 .357 .382 .333
Marcel .267 .345 .403 .329

It's hard to project defense at catcher - mainly because it's hard to measure defense at catcher - but I'd say that there is a very good chance that Hanigan will be a better defensive catcher than Hernandez next season.

All of this is to say once again that I don't mind Hernandez as a backup catcher, but I fear that is not how he will be used.  There is this stigma that the higher paid player should start to justify the money, but I sure hope the Reds don't focus on that.  The main reason is because I think that there is a much better chance of Hanigan matching Hernandez's power than the reverse happening with on base ability, and frankly the Reds project to not be very good at getting on base next year.  Given his likely defensive superiority and the fact that he can actually get on base from time to time, there is no question in my mind that Hanigan should be the starter.  Anybody think Dusty sees it that way?

As for Freel, well, he projects to be a worse hitter than Hernandez and that's assuming that he could actually stay healthy enough to be in the lineup.  The trade does leave the Reds with a dearth of outfielders.  At the point the starting outfield will be Bruce, Dickerson, and Norris Hopper.  So, yeah, um, they need to fix that.

I don't think the addition of Hernandez is a large upgrade to the team, but it does help fill a hole.  It's an awful lot of money to pay for a backup catcher, but it's not my money.