Tigers should look at O’s Hernandez for catcher

Ramon Hernandez (licensed under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0)

Ramon Hernandez (licensed under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0)

Before Dave Dombrowski trades for Gerald Laird to fill the Tiger need for a catcher, he should look at one other possibility in Ramon Hernandez. Hernandez was the starting catcher for the Baltimore Orioles last year and is under contract for at least one more year, but there are many reasons that the O’s are looking to unload him:

  1. He’s due at least $9M over the next two years, $8M in ’09 with a 2010 Club Option worth $8.5M ($1M buyout). Baltimore signed Ramon to a 4 year $27.5M dollar deal after the ’05 season. His first year after the signing was his best when he hit .275/.343/.479, and has regressed a bit in each the last two years hitting .257/.308/.406 last year in 133 games.
  2. He’s blocking Matt Wieters whom was recently placed as the #2 prospect in all of baseball by MILB.com. While Wieters has not played above Double-A, he is widely eyed by O’s fans to be on the team when they break spring camp.

The Tigers are certainly not planning on taking on that type of salary burden, however Baltimore has signaled that they’re willing to eat quite a bit of that salary to move him. Depending on how much they’re willing to eat, a trade might not look much different than one for Laird who’s arbitration eligible and due to get ~$3M and potentially much more in 2010 before he’s a free agent. Baltimore’s needs aren’t much different than the Texas Rangers in they both very much need starting pitchers:

“We’ve made it clear that solidifying our rotation is a priority,” said Orioles manager Dave Trembley. “The groundwork has been laid. We’re going to see what we can do.”

Hernandez is a more veteran presence who would be better in platoon with Dusty Ryan and give Detroit a cheap option for 2010 if prospects James Skelton and/or Alex Avila aren’t quite ready. I, for one, have high hopes for Skelton who’s ability to take a walk has impressed. Laird is in a different position as he prepares for potential free agency in 2010 and will look to be very aggressive with his agent Scott Boras.

One issue that might get in the way is that Detroit is part of his limited no-trade clause. However, with a powerful switch-hitting youngster behind him and not many in the market for catchers this season he might be persuaded to take a starting job here.

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