Report: Mets closing in on Hernandez
Rubber-armed free agent could help New York's rotation
NEW YORK -- The chase for Johan Santana may remain stalled, but the chase for starting pitching assuredly isn't. According to a report Friday in the Rocky Mountain News, the Mets are "close" to a deal for free-agent starter Livan Hernandez, who could provide a boost for their rotation.
Hernandez, 32, finished 11-11 for the Diamondbacks last season, posting a 4.93 ERA. While he's the half-brother of current Mets starter Orlando Hernandez, he shares none of El Duque's durability issues. And that's precisely where his value lies.
Over the past decade, Hernandez has eclipsed 200 innings nine times -- and in the one season he didn't, he finished just one-third of an inning shy. With 43 career complete games to his credit, he's a throwback to an era when bullpens were used, not abused.
His presence would likely knock Mike Pelfrey out of the rotation and give the Mets some measure of insurance for their older starters. There are no guarantees as to the health of either El Duque or Pedro Martinez, so Hernandez would ease much of that worry. At the least, he would replace the heavy load of innings lost when Tom Glavine left for Atlanta.
What Hernandez won't become is the ace that the Mets have been lacking. Last year, Hernandez produced a 4.93 ERA -- his highest since 2001 -- and struck out only 90 batters. And over each of the past three seasons, his win total and strikeout rate have decreased, while his ERA has shot up by more than a full run
Still, the Mets are intrigued by that rubber arm, and have been all offseason. Hernandez ranked among the best starters on the open market, thanks entirely to a weak free-agent class and his unique durability.
Should the Mets acquire Hernandez, it won't necessarily mean they're out of the hunt for Santana. The Twins ace still provides a dimension unlike anything currently featured in the Mets' rotation, and the Mets still remain the front-runners to swing a deal for him.
But there's no recent indication that the Twins are willing to trade, meaning the Mets may just have to settle for a consolation prize.
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.