The Orioles added another left-handed pitching option Wednesday in a trade with the Boston Red Sox, acquiring Darwinzon Hernandez in exchange for cash. To make room for Hernandez, Baltimore designated infielder Lewin Díaz for the second time this offseason, continuing a head-swirling winter for the first baseman.
Hernandez was designated for assignment last week by the Red Sox and is coming off a difficult season in which the 26-year-old threw just 6 2/3 innings and recorded a 21.60 ERA. But Hernandez, who ranked as one of Boston’s top six prospects according to Baseball America between 2018 and 2020, has shown a glimmer of potential in past major league appearances.
Overall, Hernandez has thrown 85 1/3 innings for the Red Sox, including one start. While his WHIP imploded to 3.300 last season during his short stint with Boston, he held a 3.17 ERA in 48 1/3 innings for the Red Sox between the 2020 and 2021 seasons.
Perhaps most importantly, Hernandez could offer Baltimore another left-handed option, particularly as Nick Vespi recovers from hernia surgery.
The Orioles have three left-handed options healthy in the bullpen: Cionel Pérez, Keegan Akin and DL Hall — although the latter might contest for a rotation role. Vespi will miss opening day but should be ready during the early part of the season, the Orioles said.
Hernandez has flexibility with two minor league options remaining and an ability to force strikeouts through his mid-90s fastball and mid-80s slider. Part of Hernandez’s step back last year could have been related to a meniscus tear in his right knee. The Venezuelan pitcher underwent surgery to repair the tear in May and returned to action in July, but his performances were unsteady at best.
To open a spot on the 40-man roster, Díaz became the odd-man out again, as he has been throughout the offseason.
The first baseman was first designated for assignment by the Miami Marlins on Nov. 15. Since then, he’s been claimed three times and traded once. Baltimore values Díaz’s left-handed bat as it searches for a backup first baseman, but executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias will have to hope Díaz slips through waivers unclaimed this go-around.
Díaz is known mostly for his defensive ability at first, having hit .169 for the Marlins last season with a .512 on-base plus slugging percentage. The whirlwind offseason has taken him to the Pirates, Orioles, Braves and back again to Baltimore — unless he’s claimed off waivers.
The trade Wednesday corresponds with the Orioles’ offseason focus. They’ve prioritized adding on the margins, upgrading incrementally, leaving ripples instead of splashes.