|Ramon Hernandez became the second catcher to be dealt this offseason, following Gerald Laird's trade to Detroit, as teams apparently aren't finding what they want on the free agent market. The Orioles traded the 32-year-old backstop to the Reds for outfielder (and occasional second and third baseman) Ryan Freel and two prospects. Baltimore, which kicked in cash to offset Hernandez's salary, also received Double-A second baseman Justin Turner and low Class A third baseman Brandon Waring. The trade reunites Freel, Turner and Waring with former Reds general manager Wayne Krivsky, who joined the Orioles as a special assistant to the team president after the Reds fired him.
|The Young Players|
|Turner played on Cal State Fullerton's 2004 College World Series championship team. He was a bargain senior sign ($50,000) as a 2006 seventh-round pick who has proven to be a nice sleeper prospect. Ever since he signed, Turner, 24, has shown that he gets the most out of his limited tools. Turner's swing isn't ideal, as he sometimes is too prone to going inside out instead of using the whole field, but he's hit for average everywhere he's gone while showing adequate pop. He batted .298/.367/.418 with eight homers and 22 doubles in 416 at-bats in 2008, splitting time at high Class A Sarasota and Double-A Chattanooga. At second base, Turner is solid. He has excellent instincts, although his range is only adequate and his arm is short for any position besides second. Turner was slated to head to Triple-A, but his trade may help the Reds decide to give shortstop Chris Valaika more time at second base as a fallback position in case Brandon Phillips is injured.
Waring was second in Division I in home runs in his junior season at Wofford, then added 20 more in the Pioneer League in his pro debut. A seventh-round pick, like Turner, Waring has outstanding power, though his long swing also means he will always strike out a lot and he will struggle to hit for a high average. Waring missed time this year with a broken bone in his wrist, and his power suffered when he returned, as August proved to be his worst month of the season. Waring, who will be 23 in 2009, batted .270/.346/.467 with 20 home runs for low Class A Dayton. With the Reds, Waring's fringy athleticism and subpar footwork likely would have likely forced a move from third base, especially as he was backed up in a logjam with fellow prospects Todd Frazier, Neftali Soto and Juan Francisco.
|By trading Hernandez, the Orioles have paved the way for catcher Matt Wieters, our Minor League Player of the Year, to see regular playing time, possibly in April if he has a good spring training. Baltimore also frees up money, as Hernandez was owed $8 million next season. Freel, who like Hernandez turns 33 early next season, gives the Orioles a quality, righthanded-hitting reserve outfielder who has performed much better versus lefthanders in two of the past three seasons—though he has been seriously injured in each of the past two years. Perhaps he gives left fielder Luke Scott a break against most southpaws. Freel is owed $3 million in '08 and then $4 million in '09. Turner and Waring provide needed organizational depth to the Orioles.
For the Reds, Hernandez gives them competition for rookie Ryan Hanigan. Three of the Reds four catchers who saw time in 2008 (Paul Bako, Dave Ross, Javier Valentin) have departed, so Cincinnati was in dire need of catching help.