Phils sign Hernandez, cut former prospect Valle

Phils sign Hernandez, cut former prospect Valle
December 18, 2013, 11:15 am
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The Phillies on Wednesday finalized a one-year contract with Roberto Hernandez and designated Sebastian Valle for assignment. (USA Today Images)

Updated: 11:40 a.m.

Roberto Hernandez has passed his physical examination and the Phillies have finalized a one-year contract with the pitcher.

Hernandez, a 33-year-old right-hander, is guaranteed $4.5 million in 2014 and can earn an additional $1.5 million in performance incentives.

“I think it was important for us to add some depth to our pitching staff," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Wednesday. "We’re short pitching wise and I think Roberto Hernandez will help us.”

Hernandez, who pitched under the name Fausto Carmona before being busted for identity falsification in 2012, projects to fill a spot at the back end of the Phillies’ rotation.

“We looked at our scouts, our analytics people etc., looked at those middle-of-the-road, back-end starters and we felt like he would be a good choice for us. He’s pitched well in the National League. He’s a ground ball type of a guy and hopefully he can pitch well for us.”

The Phillies made a noteworthy move to clear room for Hernandez on the 40-man roster. Minor-league catcher Sebastian Valle was designated for assignment.

Valle, 23, was once the organization’s top catching prospect. He played in the MLB Futures Game during all-star festivities in 2011 and was rated as the organization’s third-best prospect by Baseball America in November of that year.

“Prospects are prospects," Amaro said. "Sometimes they develop and sometimes they don’t. He didn’t develop at the rate we thought that he would. We’re fortunate that we have other people that have stepped up.

"Cameron Rupp has stepped up and made himself a prospect. We signed Lou Marson to give us a little bit of depth there. But we have some other guys in our system that will help give us a little bit of depth. Having signed [Wil] Nieves, I think will give us obviously some depth on the major league level. 

The shine wore off Valle’s prospect label in 2012. His strikeout totals were high, he had trouble getting on base consistently and his work behind the plate was a concern. He was actually slated to get significant work in the outfield in 2013, but ended up getting most of his time at catcher after a concussion suffered by Tommy Joseph caused a chain reaction at the position in the upper levels of the Phillies’ system. Valle spent the season at Double A and hit .203 with a .603 OPS in 98 games.

Joseph moved ahead of Valle on the Phillies’ catching prospect chart when he came over from San Francisco in the Hunter Pence trade in 2012. Cameron Rupp, a 2010 draft pick out of the University of Texas, also surged past Valle. Rupp, in fact, spent time in the big leagues in 2013 and currently sits third on the organizational depth chart behind Wil Nieves, who was signed to be Carlos Ruiz’s backup earlier this month.

Joseph remains highly regarded. He missed significant time recovering from the concussion in 2013 and recently finished a month-long assignment in the Dominican winter league.

Down below, the Phillies have two highly rated catching prospects in Andrew Knapp and Deivi Grullon. Knapp was the Phils’ second-round pick in 2013 out of the University of California. He required Tommy John surgery in the fall, but a full recovery is expected. Phillies director of player development Joe Jordan has raved about Knapp’s bat. Opposing scouts are high on Grullon, a 17-year-old Dominican with a powerful throwing arm among other tools.

The improvement in catching inventory made Valle expendable. He actually appeared to be on the move last winter, along with pitcher Tyler Cloyd, in a proposed deal for Houston reliever Wilton Lopez, but the Phils backed off the deal because of concerns about the condition of Lopez’s arm. Lopez ended up being traded to Colorado and pitched in 75 games in 2013.

Hernandez is 59-82 with a 4.67 ERA in 216 games (177 starts) over eight big-league seasons. He had his best years in Cleveland, where he won 19 games and finished fourth in the American League Cy Young voting in 2007. He made 32 starts in 2011, but his ERA soared to 5.28. He made just three big-league starts in 2012. He signed as a free agent with Tampa Bay last year and went 6-13 with a 4.89 ERA and a 1.338 WHIP in 151 innings. He made 24 starts and pitched eight times in relief.

“I think he pitched in a very tough division," Amaro said of the AL East. "I don’t think that he had the kind of year that we think he’s going to have.

"We’re looking at some different trends, and some of the things that our scouts saw. Look at some of the success that he had in the National League. It was pretty significant. We think switching over leagues will help him.”