The Reds have signed free-agent right-handed reliever David Hernandez to a two-year contract, as The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal first reported on Tuesday.
Hernandez will earn a $2.5 million base salary over each of the next two seasons, with the opportunity to earn $50,000 for 40 appearances, $100,000 for each of 45, 50, 55, and 60 appearances, $150,000 for each of 65 and 70 appearances, and $125,000 for each of 30 and 35 games finished, according to Zach Buchanan of The Cincinnati Enquirer. If he reaches all of those incentives, the deal will max out at $7 million over two seasons.
One year after having to accept a minor-league deal with an invite to spring training from the Giants, then being released by San Francisco and spending time in the Braves’ minor-league system before ending up with the Angels, Hernandez gets some well-earned job security in the form of a multi-year deal.
Hernandez, 32, had one of the best seasons of his career in 2017, posting a 3.11 ERA and a 1.04 WHIP with 52 strikeouts and nine walks in 55 innings. He was particularly good in 38 appearances with the Angels, posting a 2.23 ERA and a 1.02 WHIP while allowing no home runs over 36.1 innings. Hernandez continued to strike out batters at a respectable rate and keep runners off base after being traded to the Diamondbacks on July 31, but he allowed four homers in 18.2 innings and ended up with a 4.82 ERA over 26 appearances with Arizona.
Hernandez joins a Reds bullpen that is the team’s clear weak point heading into the 2018 season. While closer Raisel Iglesias was fantastic in his first season as a full-time reliever last year and lefty Wandy Peralta was solid in his first full big-league season, Cincinnati’s returning bullpen group is not exceptionally inspiring overall. Jared Hughes, who joins Hernandez as a free-agent addition, could be in line for high-leverage opportunities after posting a 3.02 ERA and 1.22 WHIP with the Brewers last season. Hernandez and Hughes figure to be the Reds’ preferred options to bridge the gap to Iglesias, though those opportunities may come in the middle innings considering the inexperience of Cincinnati’s rotation and the ability of Iglesias to make frequent multi-inning appearances.