Mets Reacquire Hernandez To March In Parade Of Stopgaps

The Deal
The Mets reacquired light-hitting middle infielder Anderson Hernandez in a trade with the Nationals, sending them high Class A second baseman Greg Veloz in return. New York traded Hernandez to Washington nearly a year ago to acquire reliever Luis Ayala.

Defense is Hernandez’s calling card. He’s a smooth, rangy middle infielder with a quick pivot on double plays. On the flip side, he never has been much of a hitter. This year with Washington, in the only season in which he’s come to the plate more than 91 times, he batted .251/.310/.320 with one home run and nine doubles in 231 at-bats. A switch-hitter in name only, Hernandez has handled big league lefties well, batting .303/.361/.431 in a mere plate appearances, but he’s practically helpless versus righthanders (.539 OPS).

Hernandez has swiped as many 35 bases in a minor league season (and 167 total in nine seasons in the bushes), but the 26-year-old has shown decidedly more caution in the big leagues. He went 5-for-8 on the basepaths this season, and he has only one other stolen base attempt in 141 big league games—though that’s also a product of his .243 average and .300 on-base percentage.

The Young Player
Veloz, 21, has rocketed so quickly through the minors that it’s hard to get a handle on his true level of ability. At the time of the trade, the switch-hitter had batted .232/.297/.303 in 357 at-bats for St. Lucie, with two home runs and 18 stolen bases. Signed at age 17 out of the Dominican in ’06, Veloz spent half of the following season with low Class A Savannah. He struggled, predictably, but in a return there in ’08, Veloz batted .286/.339/.402 with six home runs, 25 doubles and 28 stolen bases in 111 games.

An athletic 6-foot-1, 175 pounds, Veloz draws compliments for his athleticism and confidence. His swing is geared more toward lining the ball into the gaps than over the fence, and he’ll probably never be more than average as a defensive second baseman. Despite the steals, he’s an average runner who lacks the arm to play the left side of the infield.

Quick Take
Hernandez is only the most recent in a parade of middle-infield stopgaps to suit up for the Mets in 2009. He joins Angel Berroa, 31; Ramon Martinez, 36; Argenis Reyes, 26; and Wilson Valdez, 31, as emergency complements to primary backup Alex Cora, a 33-year-old veteran who spent time on the disabled list early in the season.

The reason for the churn is twofold. Primarily, the injury to all-star shortstop Jose Reyes, who has missed virtually the entire season, has crippled the club both offensively and defensively. But New York’s lack of depth at either of its top two minor league affiliates has been equally devastating. In fact, Triple-A Buffalo and Double-A Binghamton are two of the worst clubs in the minors, featuring too few big league ready prospects or even acceptable big league fill-ins.

The Nationals had no reason not to make this trade. The club was going nowhere this season and Hernandez was a bit redundant with the presence of Alberto Gonzalez and Ian Desmond, a pair of fellow defensive-minded middle infielders, on the 40-man roster.

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