Felix Hernandez signs with Braves on minor-league contract, report says
Hernandez had spent the entirety of his career with the Mariners
The Braves agreed to terms with veteran right-hander Felix Hernandez on a minor-league contract, Jon Heyman reports. According to Heyman, the deal includes a non-roster invitation to spring training and will pay Hernandez $1 million if he makes the team. He's expected to compete for the fifth spot in the Atlanta rotation.
Hernandez, who turns 34 in early April, is coming off a 2019 season in which he pitched to a 6.40 ERA and a 2.28 K/BB ratio in 15 starts for the Mariners, for whom he'd spent his entire career up until now. Hernandez was once in the discussion for best pitcher in baseball -- he won the AL Cy Young award in 2010 and finished in the top five of the balloting on three other occasions -- but he hasn't been both generally healthy and effective since 2015. Hernandez hasn't pitched at an elite level on a sustained basis since 2014. He'll always be a franchise legend in Seattle, but it's possible his big-league career is over.
Hernandez has lot quite a bit of fastball velocity over the years. For a time he was able to thrive despite losing those fastball ticks thanks to the depth and quality of his supporting pitches. Now, though, he doesn't typically crack 90 mph with his sinker, and he's gradually lost consistent command of his breaking stuff. Given recent history -- Hernandez has an MLB starting pitcher again.of 77 over the last three seasons -- it'll be surprising if he's able to become an effective
That said, the Braves have enough faith to take a flyer on him. Young ace Mike Soroka will slot in ahead of Cole Hamels in the Atlanta rotation, and Mike Foltynewicz and Max Fried figure to occupy the next two spots. That leaves Sean Newcomb, Kyle Wright, Touki Toussaint, Bryse Wilson, and now Hernandez likely in competition for the final spot.
This isn't the sort of steep decline you would've predicted for Hernandez say five years ago, but now he finds himself needing to battle and perhaps reinvent himself in order to secure a roster spot. Given the young pitching depth that Atlanta has in the fold, Hernandez's bid may be a long shot.
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