Mets Add Veteran Reliever

The Deal
The Mets acquired 30-year-old righthanded reliever Luis Ayala, in the midst of his worst season in the big leagues, from the Nationals for Triple-A shortstop Anderson Hernandez.

The Big Leaguer
Though Ayala entered the season with a career 2.82 ERA in 248 big league games, nothing has gone right for him this season. The longest-tenured National—dating back to Opening Day 2003, in fact, when they were still the Expos—Ayala has gone 1-8, 5.77 in 57 2/3 innings this season, compiling 36 strikeouts and 22 walks while allowing six home runs. His numbers are poor any way you slice them—in the first half and second; against righties and lefties; and at home and on the road. Against the Mets, however, he’s given up just two earned runs in 6 1/3 innings this season, including a two-inning scoreless stint on Aug. 13. A native of Los Mochis, Mexico, Ayala missed the 2006 season, and the first three months of 2007, after having Tommy John surgery, which he believes resulted from his participation in the inaugural World Baseball Classic.

The Prospect
Hernandez, 25, has done nothing with 87 big league at-bats, hitting just .138/.157/.207 in three brief trials. The switch-hitter kept his spot on the Mets’ 40-man roster, though, because of his defensive acumen at both middle infield positions. He was hitting just .203/.262/.307 in 479 at-bats for New Orleans this season, and the 5-foot-9, 170-pound Hernandez offers very little power, as attested to by his Triple-A averages of .261/.307/.344 in 1,708 at-bats. With 164 career minor league stolen bases, Hernandez can run, but he’s a switch-hitter in name only. He’s fared much better from the right side of the plate throughout his career.

Quick Take
Only the Cardinals, among National League teams, have more losses (12) in games in which they led after seventh inning than do the Mets (eight). And with closer Billy Wagner’s return date very much in question, the Mets felt compelled to add bullpen depth—even if it was of the low-leverage variety. (Ayala takes the bullpen spot previously held by struggling rookies Carlos Muniz and Eddie Kunz.) If a change of scenery isn’t enough to turn Ayala’s season around, then the Mets can cut bait quickly. His 2008 salary is just $1.7 million.

Hernandez’s acquisition by the Nationals seems a bit redundant given that they already had dealt for Alberto Gonzalez—another light-hitting, slick-fielding middle infielder—at the trading deadline.

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