Pirates trade reliever to Dodgers after LA loses key bullpen piece for season

Pittsburgh Pirates v New York Mets
Pittsburgh Pirates v New York Mets / Sarah Stier/GettyImages

The most recent loss from the Pirates’ ever-fluctuating bullpen has found himself a new home. Lefty Jose Hernández, whom Pittsburgh designated for assignment after acquiring Dennis Santana earlier this week, was dealt to the Dodgers for cash on Thursday.

Hernández, a left-handed reliever in the Pirates’ righty-heavy pen, joined Pittsburgh prior to the 2023 season and turned in a serviceable year as a rookie. His primary pitch, a slider, held opposing batters to a .170 average and earned a run value of seven. He seemed a master of soft contact and breaking stuff, generating a whiff rate of 29.3% and a hard-hit rate of 34.8%.

Pirates make a trade with Dodgers, send struggling lefty reliever to LA for cash

This season has been a completely different story for Hernández. He landed on the Opening Day roster thanks to Roansy Contreras’ paternity leave and earned the save in the Pirates’ first game. However, the wheels began to fall off in mid-April. After four straight scoreless appearances, Hernández’s lack of control caught up to him. In his final three appearances in the majors this year, he walked four and posted a 20.40 FIP.

Hernández was no better at Triple-A Indianapolis. In 15.1 innings, he walked nine batters and logged a 7.04 ERA. Of his 302 pitches, 39.1% were balls. Still, he struck out 21 of the 75 hitters he faced.

Hernández, though, is familiar with the Dodgers’ organization. He spent five years in their system prior to being picked by the Pirates in the 2022 Rule 5 Draft. Los Angeles needs bullpen help after placing Ryan Brasier on the 60-day injured list with a right calf strain in the corresponding move to the Hernández trade. Hernández may not figure as a significant piece for the NL West frontrunners, but considering the Dodgers currently have six pitchers on the IL, a little help can go a long way.

For now, this deal looks to favor the Pirates, despite their depleted reliever corps and their need to piece together at least one bullpen day in Colorado this weekend. Santana, who himself struggles with command, will have to prove his worth, but Pittsburgh swapped a risky reliever who lacked control for an open spot on their 40-man roster and cash. The Pirates are currently 1.5 games out of the third Wild Card spot, despite losing the series in St. Louis, and could be buyers at the trade deadline. Small moves like these could put Pittsburgh in position to make waves in July.