Arizona is currently 60-45, and half a game up on the Colorado Rockies for the first wild card spot (and six games up on the Milwaukee Brewers behind them). Although it’s safe to assume that the Los Angeles Dodgers will run away with the NL West — they just added Yu Darvish and currently have a fourteen-game lead — Arizona is in an enviable position to make a playoff push as one of the two NL wild card teams. Nearing the trade deadline, adding to the bullpen was probably one of their priorities, which is exactly what General Manager Mike Hazen did by acquiring Hernandez.
Hernandez is a shrewd acquisition; he’s not one of the names you hear when it comes to elite relievers, but he has put together a strong season this year. In 36 1⁄3 innings for the Angels, he has an ERA of 2.23, a FIP of 1.85, and a strike out rate of 26.4% while allowing an average of just .221 against.
For Hernandez, a trade to Arizona is a homecoming of sorts: after being drafted by the Orioles in 2005, he was traded to Arizona in 2011, where he spent the next 4 years (including his two best years prior to this one as a major league relief pitcher in 2011 and 2012). Since then he’s spent time with the Phillies before having a breakout year of sorts in LA this year.
Arizona’s bullpen was already strong before this move, and one of the best ‘pens in the National League. Led by Archie Bradley, and supported by Andrew Chafin and T.J. McFarland, they sit third behind the Dodgers and Cubs in fWAR (3.4), third in ERA (3.44), second in FIP (3.68) and fourth in strikeout rate (24.2%). Adding Hernandez gives them depth, and another quality relief pitcher who can help shorten games — something that might be even more important to Arizona than the division-leaders, given they’re likely to compete in the one-game Wild Card playoff.
In exchange, the Angels acquire young righthanded pitcher Luis Madero. Madero was one of Arizona’s international signings a few years ago. This year, the 20-year-old pitched at the rookie and short-season A levels, which makes him hard to project with any certainty. He’s a 6’3”, 175-lb righty who is probably at least 3 years away from the big leagues, if not more.
The trade should satisfy the Angels organization and fans. They get a young pitching prospect to add to their barren farm system for a pending free agent in the midst of an excellent year. For the D’Backs, Hernandez is another useful piece they can use during their stretch run who didn’t cost them a prospect with much pedigree or proximity to the majors.
Azam Farooqui is a contributor at Beyond the Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter at @afarooqui21.