Can the Padres Afford Hernandez?

Yesterday in the comments, longtime reader Brian G posed the following:

Many people have posited that by trading Humberto Quintero, the Padres are indicating that they’re committed to signing Ramon Hernandez to that long-term contract he’s going to want at the end of this season. (1) What do you think he’s going to want (years and dollars), (2) If he asks for what you think he’s going to ask for, will the Padres sign him and (3) Is that a deal you would make if you were GM?

Assume no “San Diego discount.”

Great question, Brian, and one I’m sure is on a lot of our minds. Let’s take a closer look.

Five starting catchers (defined fairly loosely) signed this off-season as free agents. Here they are (along with Hernandez), with their length of signing, dollar amount, age, and “traditional” offensive numbers over the past two years:

              Yr $M    Age  AB   R HR RBI   BA
Matheny,Mi     3 10.5   34 826  71 13  97 .249
Miller,Da      3  8.5   35 749  73 18  94 .254
Pierzynski,A.  1  2.25  28 958 108 22 151 .292
Varitek,Ja     4 40     32 914 130 43 158 .284
Wilson,Da      1  1.75  36 635  55  6  76 .246
Hernandez,Ra            29 867 115 39 141 .275

Here are some more “stathead” numbers for each over that same period:

                OBP  SLG OPS WS
Matheny,Mi     .308 .352 660 23
Miller,Da      .325 .387 713 25
Pierzynski,A.  .340 .437 777 35
Varitek,Ja     .371 .497 867 35
Wilson,Da      .289 .324 613 14
Hernandez,Ra   .336 .466 802 32

A.J. Pierzysnki’s personality sure is costing him. Anyway, how about defense? Here are some of the more interesting metrics for catchers:

                Inn   CERA SBA CS%
Matheny,Mi     2074.3 4.26 109 .26
Miller,Da      1893.3 4.06 150 .33
Pierzynski,A.  2187.7 4.22 132 .22
Varitek,Ja     2138.0 4.35 184 .22
Wilson,Da      1644.7 4.31 106 .27
Hernandez,Ra   2098.0 3.71 183 .25

Why is Mike Matheny making all that money? I’d assumed he was a superior defensive backstop. Those aren’t bad numbers, but they’re not as good as I’d expected.

So, acknowledging the small sample here, what can we say about Hernandez? Well, the bad news for the Padres is that Jason Varitek does seem to be a pretty good comp. Varitek has slightly better traditional and stathead offensive stats, and slightly inferior defensive numbers. He’s also three years older than Hernandez.

My WAG left in the comments (3 years/$15M) looks kinda silly now. Assuming the market doesn’t change drastically next winter and he stays relatively healthy, Hernandez should be in for a hefty raise. So my more educated guesses are:

  • In the $8-9M/yr range, at either 3 or 4 years. I’ll say 4 years/$34M.
  • With Ryan Klesko and Phil Nevin still on the books, and a bunch of the kids about to start earning real money, I don’t see how.
  • I’d be reluctant to go for a fourth year with a catcher. Beyond that, it depends on the budget I’ve got. Maybe 3 years/$25M?

The Red Sox, who are fond of complaining about the Yankees’ spending, overpaid to keep Varitek around, and that may end up costing the Padres. Unless (a) Hernandez is willing to take less to remain in San Diego, (b) the market changes dramatically, or (c) John Moores expands the payroll dramatically, I have a hard time seeing how the Padres are going to make this work. I hope I’m wrong, but I suspect Hernandez will be too expensive for Moores’ taste.

3 Responses »

  1. Thank you for looking into it, Geoff. Apparently, this topic is on other peoples’ minds as well. See this blurb from the U-T: “One of the team’s veteran hitters said he believes that the Padres will make drastic changes to the player roster if the club doesn’t have a strong season. As it is, the Padres seem prepared to start the season without extensions for right fielder Brian Giles and closer Trevor Hoffman, who are eligible for free agency in November; and the club and catcher Ramon Hernandez were $12 million apart in talks designed to keep Hernandez from reaching free agency after the season.”

    Does the $12MM number alter your guess? Even if we start with $25MM, adding $12MM either makes him WAY over $10MM/year or extends his contract beyond three years.

    Farewell, Ramon.

  2. I still think that the Pads wiil make every effort to re-sign Ramon. But they may wait until late in the season or October and take three things into consideration…1) the market price, of course. 2) The performance of the pitching staff. I literally feel this will be more important than the offensive numbers in their decision. 3) the growth of Michael Hernandez and George Kottaras.

  3. Brian: My guess is the Ramon is asking for a fourth year and the Padres are offering three. Actually I could see them offering 3 years/$22M, which would put the two sides $12M apart if my original hypothesis is correct.

    Rich: All good points. I think Hernandez’ value to the pitching staff is huge. One thing I don’t want to see is the Padres rush Kottaras like they did Ben Davis a few years ago. Most catching prospects take a long time to develop, and I’d like Kottaras to stay for good when he arrives.