Hold Up with Hernandez

Many reporters, bloggers, pundits — including myself — keep saying that Omar’s top catching target is Ramon Hernandez, and that the Orioles are only too happy to be shopping him to anyone who will take him off their hands.

However, one of our loyal MetsToday readers has pointed out a significant issue: why would the Orioles do that when they have no one behind him?

Looking at their present 40-man roster, the O’s have one catcher — Ramon Hernandez. The others who played the position in 2007 were J.R. House, Paul Bako, and Alberto Castillo — all of whom are now free agents. House and Castillo played most of the season for AAA Norfolk, with a few games played by non-prospect Ryan Hubele. There was a catcher on their Baseball American “Top Ten Prospects” list — Brandon Snyder at #7 — but he projects as a corner infielder or outfielder and is only 20 years old (in fact, he played 118 games at 1B in A ball in 2007).

So if in fact the Orioles deal Ramon Hernandez, who will catch for them in 2008?

In other words, they’d be in the same situation the Mets were two days ago, except worse — since the Mets did re-sign their fine backup Ramon Castro. Baltimore doesn’t even have a legitimate second stringer at this point, so they’d need to acquire both a starter and a secondary option. As we’ve already seen, there aren’t many good catchers available on the trade market — Gerald Laird and Kelly Shoppach are the best among the “buzz” — and the free agent route looks dim as well. Assuming Jason Kendall signs with the Brewers, the pick of the litter is between Paul LoDuca, Michael Barrett, and Yorvit Torrealba. Barrett requires a compensatory #1 pick — something the perennially rebuilding Orioles likely are not looking to give up. Unless they do something very strange, or land a Laird / Shoppach type youngster, it would appear they have no option but to hold on to Hernandez for now.

Or am I missing something?

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. skibolton November 21, 2007 at 12:08 pm
    They have a kid they drafted this year, Matt Weiters, who may very well have been the best player in the draft. He’s a switch hitting catcher who can hit, and has a good arm. He was a boras guy though, so he dropped to a team that could afford him. He may very well be in the majors by the middle of next season, so hernandez may not be all that important to their long term plans. If they can get a solid prospect for him, I’m sure they’d take it and sign a non-tender guy for the time being. Actually, Estrada and his one year commitment would be a perfect fit in baltimore, much like jojhima is in seattle. If hernandez isn’t cheap enough this winter, I’m sure they’ll be looking to get rid of him next year.
  2. joe November 21, 2007 at 12:17 pm
    Wieters, right, I glazed over him … I knew there was someone I was missing. As a Boras client it’s mildly surprising that he didn’t have a clause that forced him onto the MLB roster.

    However, as you pointed out it’s doubtful he’ll be ready before the middle of next season, so there are about 80 or so games that someone else has to sit back there. But maybe that’s what the Estrada deal is all about — as you say, he’s a perfect (cheaper) fit for them. If all the scouts are correct about Wieters — and he does swing a mean stick — then he could very well find himself pushing for playing time by June/July, so Estrada makes almost too much sense.

    The Hot Stove heats up …

  3. Matt Himelfarb November 21, 2007 at 11:04 pm
    I doubt the Orioles will have any qualms over dealing him when the right deal comes along; they aren’t going to be in contention next year, so they are the team that can simply deal Hernandez and take it from there.
  4. Micalpalyn November 22, 2007 at 9:43 am
    This is interesting.

    1. Ramon has ONLY a 2 yr deal and that at a low salary. Now mix in Estrada who is under control. hardly a long term plan.

    2. who else is there? We passed up Kendall and Yorvit. We DONT want Hooter-snatcher LoDuck. We lost our best catcher Jesus Flores to the Gnats. I would try for JR house just as a 3rd option.

  5. joe November 22, 2007 at 11:07 am
    I think a Bedard / Hernandez / Bradford deal is brewing.