CINCINNATI -- The Reds want catcher Ramon Hernandez to return for 2010, but not for the $8.5 million figure his club option calls for. "We're not going to pick up the option," Reds general manager Walt Jocketty said on Friday. "We have been talking with his agent and trying to negotiate a new deal. We're hoping he comes back." The buyout for the Hernandez option is $1 million. Acquired last winter from the Orioles in a trade for utility player Ryan Freel and two prospects, Hernandez batted .258 with five home runs and 37 RBIs in 81 games. Only July 21, Hernandez had arthroscopic surgery to clean out his left knee and he missed 57 games. He also made 21 starts in place of Joey Votto at first base.
Should he not return to Cincinnati at a reduced price and hit the open market, Hernandez is rated a Type B free agent by Elias. If he is offered arbitration, it would mean the Reds would receive a first-round sandwich pick in the 2010 Draft as compensation. Without Hernandez, the Reds would likely have Ryan Hanigan as the primary catcher. While Hanigan is better defensively than Hernandez, they would probably want someone that can bring more offense. In other roster moves, the Reds sent backup catcher Corky Miller and reserve outfielder Darnell McDonald outright to Triple-A Louisville. In 21 games for the Reds, Miller hit .179, but was a strong presence behind the plate. Reds pitchers were 13-5 with a 3.02 ERA when he caught. Miller was signed to a 2010 contract with Louisville. McDonald batted .267 in 47 games over two big league stints in 2009, but hit .323 (21-for-65) after his second callup on Aug. 25. Both Miller and McDonald could return to the team under Minor League deals. If the Reds didn't retain Hernandez or land another catcher, Miller would have a strong shot at the backup catcher's job next season. The light-hitting Craig Tatum is the only other catcher on the Reds' 40-man roster. "The hope is we can get them re-signed for next year," Jocketty said of Miller and McDonald. "We needed space on the roster because we have so many guys to protect." Starting pitcher Justin Lehr signed a one-year big league contract and was then sent outright to Louisville. A 32-year-old journeyman, Lehr emerged in late summer and posted a 5-3 record and 5.37 ERA in 11 starts, including one complete game. He could be a contender for the fifth spot in the rotation. The Reds also activated infielder Danny Richar from the 60-day disabled list and outrighted him from the roster along with first baseman Kevin Barker. Both players elected to become free agents. The Reds' 40-man roster currently stands at 39 players with three more still on the 60-day DL. The Reds are still looking around for a regular shortstop but can cross J.J. Hardy off their list. Hardy, who was dealt from the Brewers to the Twins for center fielder Carlos Gomez, was on the Cincinnati radar. "We talked to [the Brewers] several times," Jocketty said. "We didn't match up and they didn't want to trade within our division, which was understandable." Jocketty also said the Reds have talked to the agents for arbitration-eligible outfielders Jonny Gomes and Laynce Nix. Teams have a Dec. 12 deadline to tender contracts but with the Reds trying to hold the line on payroll, it's not a lock either player will be offered arbitration. "We've talked a little bit," Jocketty said of negotiations with Gomes and Nix.
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.