Roberto Hernandez set career-highs in 2013 in K/9 (6.7) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.97). (USA Today Images)
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- For the second straight year, the Phillies made a deal on their way out the door at the winter meetings.
General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. revealed Thursday morning that he had struck a deal with a free-agent starting pitcher, one that would fill a spot in the back half of the rotation.
Amaro, who traded for outfielder Ben Revere on the final day of the meetings last year, would not reveal the identity of the pitcher -- there was something fitting about that -- because the deal was pending a physical.
Sources tell CSNPhilly.com that the pitcher is Roberto Hernandez. The 33-year-old right-hander pitched under the name Fausto Carmona before being arrested in January 2012 for falsifying his identity. The infraction prevented the Dominican Republic native from re-entering the United States until the summer of 2012 and he also had to serve a suspension handed down by Major League Baseball.
“It’s more of a depth guy,” Amaro said without revealing Hernandez's name. “This is not someone who is going to slide into the top of the rotation. But we need some depth.”
The agreement with Hernandez -- which is for one year at $4.5 million with $1.5 million more in incentives, according to MLB Trade Rumors -- further crystalizes the Phillies’ plan this winter. They are trying to complement an aged and high-priced nucleus by mining the relatively inexpensive lower tiers of the free-agent market. In November, they signed 36-year-old outfielder Marlon Byrd to a two-year deal worth $16 million. In this market, Byrd was a third-tier free agent, behind the top tier of Jacoby Ellsbury and Shin-Soo Choo and the second tier of Curtis Granderson and Nelson Cruz.
The Phillies’ biggest expenditure so far this offseason was the $26 million they spent to re-sign catcher Carlos Ruiz, who turns 35 next month.
“We’re trying to get bang for our buck, and in this market it's tough because prices have soared pretty significantly," Amaro said.
Terms of Hernandez’ deal were not known. He made $3.25 million on a one-year deal with Tampa Bay last season.
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.
In his best years, Hernandez featured an outstanding sinker that produced ground balls. Like most sinker ballers, he gets in trouble when the ball is up in the strike zone.
Before Hernandez, the Phillies made offers to starting pitchers Ryan Vogelsong and Scott Feldman. Both signed elsewhere.
Amaro indicated that he may be done adding starting pitchers, though he did not rule out bringing in more pitching inventory on minor-league deals.
Assuming Hernandez passes his physical, the Phillies’ rotation shapes up this way: Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels are at the top followed by Kyle Kendrick. Hernandez will slot into one of the remaining spots. The Phils hope Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez will be ready to claim the other spot. Jonathan Pettibone and Ethan Martin will also push for the fifth spot.
As Amaro headed home from the meetings, he continued to look for outfield depth, preferably someone who can play some center field, and more bullpen depth.
Phillies officials shopped closer Jonathan Papelbon at the meetings. He remains available, as does outfielder Domonic Brown -- in the right deal. The Phils would have to get a big score -- two young pitchers -- to move Brown.
Before leaving the meetings, the Phils selected right-handed reliever Kevin Munson from the Arizona system in the Rule 5 draft (see story). He was a fourth-round draft pick in 2010. The Phils will take a look at him in spring training. If he does not make the club, he has to be offered back to the Diamondbacks.