So rumors abounded over the weekend that the Mets and Rockies are in talks to bring catcher Ramon Hernandez to New York. Justin Turner, and possibly a number of of prospects, are also involved. Let’s lay this out in some easy-to-understand truths:
1. Ramon Hernandez is an absolute upgrade for the Mets
Since signing a two-year, $6.4 million contract with the Rockies this past offseason, Hernandez has been an unmitigated disaster in Colorado. He’s posted a 65 OPS+ in 101 plate appearances and is currently injured. So it is telling just how badly the Mets need to upgrade their catching that his disaster 2012 season alone would have been a significant improvement over Mike Nickeas, who has a 37 OPS+ in 106 plate appearances.
Hernandez is probably better than he’s been so far–his OPS+ in both 2010 and 2011 is 112. He was around an .800 OPS against lefties in both seasons, so he’d make an ideal partner for Josh Thole. And he was about as good against righties, so he can step in full time if he reverts to last year’s form.
2. The Mets should not hesitate to trade Justin Turner for Ramon Hernandez
Justin Turner is 27 years old. So this is likely as good as it gets. What is Turner? A career OPS+ of 88, matched by his 88 this season. Below average defense at every position he plays. His versatility means he can find jobs in baseball for a few years. His low level of production means he is quite replaceable. To upgrade a position of huge need, there’s no reason the Mets should hold onto Turner.
3. If the Rockies think they’re getting a reasonably good prospect for Hernandez, they’re crazy (unless it’s about the money)
I mentioned earlier that Hernandez’s 2012 is an upgrade over Nickeas. Do not mistake this for thinking Hernandez’s 2012 is an upgrade over essentially any other catcher. In OPS+, Hernandez ranks 44th out of 55 catchers with at least 75 plate appearances. Nickeas ranks 53rd.
So the market for Hernandez would already be limited. But consider that with $3.2 million due to Hernandez in 2012 and 2013, the inherent value in getting Hernandez off the books- $4.8 million- is already considerable for Colorado.
The idea that the Mets would need to provide a sweetener above and beyond this is laughable. So Domingo Tapia shouldn’t be going anywhere. Matt Den Dekker certainly shouldn’t be going anywhere. A thank you note from the Rockies should be accompanying Hernandez. Otherwise, the Mets should be looking elsewhere for catching help that won’t cost them $4.8 million in added salary. (Total is half of 2012 salary, all of 2013 salary. It obviously goes down slightly the longer the Mets wait.)
The only corollary here is if the Mets are sending a prospect to help convince Colorado to take on more of Hernandez’s salary. Let’s hope that isn’t the case, since it would serve as the effective selling of a prospect by an organization who should be stockpiling them.