The Houston Astros have signed veteran right-hander Roberto Hernandez to a minor-league deal, the team has announced. The contract includes an invitation to big league Spring Training and also contains an opt-out five days prior to Opening Day. The 34-year-old Hernandez could earn $2.65 million if he makes the major league club.
Hernandez, formerly known as Fausto Carmona, has failed to live up to the hype surrounding his outstanding 2007 season (148 ERA+, 6.2 WAR), however, he has proven to be a reliable back-end arm over the past couple seasons. He signed a $4.5 million deal with the Phillies last offseason, coming off a year in which he posted a 4.89 ERA and 4.63 FIP (but a 3.60 xFIP) in 151.0 innings for the Rays. He spent the majority of the 2014 season with the Phillies, but was shipped to the Dodgers in early August. Hernandez had a generally successful campaign, making it somewhat odd that he had to settle for a minor league deal. In 164.2 innings pitched, he put up a 4.10 ERA, 4.85 FIP, and 1.3 WAR, including a 3.87 ERA in his 121-inning stint with Philadelphia.
Hernandez seems to fit well in Houston, where he may challenge for a rotation spot to start out the season. The Astros had been seeking a veteran starter, as suggested by their failed run at Ryan Vogelsong, and Hernandez fits that mold just fine. The Astros currently appear to have the first four spots of their rotation locked in, with Dallas Keuchel, Scott Feldman, Collin McHugh, and Brett Oberholtzer. However, the fifth spot seems to be up for grabs, with the likely challengers being Hernandez, Dan Straily, Sam Deduno, Alex White, and Asher Wojciechowski, though the former two are probably the frontrunners. If Hernandez fails to land a starting gig, he could wind up contributing out of the bullpen.