Marlins Pick Up Veteran Lefty

The Deal
The Marlins are rumored to be in on Manny Ramirez, but they helped shore up their bullpen with a much smaller deal, adding veteran lefthander Arthur Rhodes from the Mariners in exchange for righthander Gaby Hernandez.

The Big Leaguers
Long-time Baseball America readers will remember that Rhodes, 38, was once one of the top prospects in the land. He ranked No. 5 on our Top 100 Prospects list in 1992 and No. 6 in 1991. At that time, he was thought to be an outstanding starting pitcher prospect, but in the end, his power stuff from the left side and shaky command fit better in the bullpen, which is why he hasn’t made a start since 1996.

As a reliever, Rhodes has sandwiched outstanding seasons around some pretty mediocre ones during a 17-year major league career. He has a 4.28 career ERA, but he also has three seasons in the past decade with an ERA of 2.33 or lower. After missing all of 2007 because of Tommy John surgery, Rhodes has bounced back to pitch solidly for the Mariners this year. His fastball, which once topped out at 95 mph, now sits around 91, and he’s used his slider more since returning from last year’s surgery, but he’s still a power pitcher who is especially effective against lefties (.195 average this year).

The Prospect

This is the second trade for Hernandez, 22, who was dealt by the Mets to the Marlins in 2005 along with outfielder Dante Brinkley for catcher Paul LoDuca. Hernandez’s best asset has always been his polish. He dominated the Gulf Coast and the South Atlantic leagues with his tick above-average fastball and average changeup. But as he’s moved up the ladder, he’s struggled to repeat that success, partly because he lacks a true out pitch. Hernandez’s curveball has shown potential, but he struggles to maintain a feel for it, which explains why he went 2-8. 7.24 at Triple-A Albuquerque this year before being demoted to Double-A Carolina. The hitter-happy ballpark in Albuquerque was partly to blame (8.59 ERA and .367 average at home), but Hernandez also was hit around for a disappointing 5.46 ERA on the road.

Hernandez has a very solid pitcher’s frame and has proven to be very durable. While he doesn’t have much upside beyond that of a No. 4 or No. 5 starter—or reliever—he is better than he showed in his first exposure to Triple-A ball earlier this year. As a 22-year-old, Hernandez is still young enough to turn things around, but the trend lines are not good—since being promoted to high Class A St. Lucie midway through the 2005 season, Hernandez has a 4.70 ERA.

Quick Take
With the Mariners in the hunt to win the Stephen Strasburg derby by having baseball’s worst record, getting rid of a veteran like Rhodes makes plenty of sense. In Hernandez, the Mariners picked up a prospect who has a chance to become a major league starter, though his upside is rather limited.

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