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Astros Release Livan Hernandez, Braves Swoop In

In perhaps the fasteset set of transactions I’ve ever seen, the Astros announced that they were releasing Livan Hernandez at 12:07 pm eastern time, and then Jon Heyman reported that Livan was signing with the Braves at 2:02 pm eastern. Livan wasn’t even unemployed for two hours.

Livan’s a pretty fascinating guy. While his xFIPs are crazy consistent over the last four years (xFIP- of 112, 111, 114, 111), his results have swung wildly from awful in 2008-2009 (ERA- of 138 and 133) to pretty good in 2010 (ERA- of 91) back to not great (ERA- of 118) last year. On one hand, you know exactly what you’re getting with Livan – a durable innings eater who won’t miss bats. On the other hand, you have no idea what you’re going to get from Livan, as his BABIP and HR/FB rates have fluctuated wildly over the last five years.

This series of moves perfectly illustrates how a player can have value to one team but not another. The Braves needed to reduce their exposure to disaster performances, and signing Hernandez gives them some rotation depth and the ability to let Julio Teheran and Randall Delgado start the year in the minors. While he doesn’t do anything to help raise their upside in win total, he probably helps raise the downside slightly, as they now have a decent enough fifth starter to keep the team from imploding if the kids aren’t quite ready on Opening Day.

The Astros, though, have little need to reduce their volatility. The marginal value of a win to a team in their position is quite small, and as a pure rebuilding organization, they’re better off figuring out what they have in a guy like Kyle Weiland instead. The innings Livan would have pitched for Houston would have just reduced the number of chances the team would have had to evaluate their young arms, and so the value of having a veteran stop-gap in place simply wasn’t there.

It’s weird to see a contender pick up a guy that the worst team in baseball just decided they didn’t want, but in this case, it makes sense for both sides. Perhaps that’s why it all happened so fast.