Nats deal Livan Hernandez to D-Backs for prospects

WASHINGTON -- Livan Hernandez was traded by the Washington
Nationals to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Monday for a pair of minor
league pitchers.

ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney is reporting that the Diamondbacks also received $2 million from the Nationals in the swap.

The 31-year-old Hernandez is 9-8 this season with a career-high
5.34 ERA in 24 starts. The right-hander has been hampered by a sore
knee for most of the season but had the latest in a string of
strong outings Sunday, allowing two runs over seven innings at San

"Obviously it's tough to trade a Livan," Washington general
manager Jim Bowden said. "We love Livan, but we're not here to win
tomorrow. We're here to win for the long term."

The Nationals received two 23-year-old prospects: right-hander
Garrett Mock and left-hander Matt Chico. Both will report to
Washington's Double-A affiliate, Harrisburg of the Eastern League.

The move is symptomatic of last-place Washington's desire to
build for the future under new owner Ted Lerner, while Arizona was
looking for pitching help in the competitive NL West. The
Diamondbacks trailed first-place San Diego by two games entering
Monday's play and were one game behind Cincinnati in the wild-card

The trade bolsters an Arizona rotation that, other than All-Star
Brandon Webb, has been shaky at best. Webb missed his Saturday
start with a sore elbow, and the Diamondbacks were starting Enrique
Gonzalez on three days' rest Monday night against San Francisco.

"Livan at least gives us high expectations for innings and
hopefully quality innings," said Diamondbacks general manager Josh
Byrnes. "And in turn, we won't be playing from behind, won't be
using our bullpen quite as much as we have and when we do that,
that's when we struggle."

Arizona manager Bob Melvin said he liked the deal "for a number
of reasons. One, he's an innings eater which we need.

"Obviously, he's a starter which we're profiling. [The] guy's
pitched on the big stage -- he's pitched top of the rotation. All
those things take pressure off the bullpen," Melvin added. "It's
just a great fit for us."

Arizona dealt Hernandez's half brother, Orlando Hernandez, to
the New York Mets earlier this season.

The Nationals tried to force Livan Hernandez through waivers so
they could make a deal with any team, but Arizona blocked the move,
limiting Bowden's options. But Hernandez helped his own value by
winning his last four decisions, a remarkable turnaround following
his early season struggles.

Bowden said his phone starting ringing midway through Sunday's
game, when Hernandez was pitching a five-hit shutout through six

"He reached his highest trade value since I've been here,"
Bowden said. "You don't get two top pitching prospects if he
hadn't been pitching the way he's been pitching."

Bowden said Mock and Chico instantly become the two best
pitching prospects in the Nationals' talent-starved farm system. He
said both should be ready for the big leagues in 2008, the year the
Nationals are scheduled to move into a new ballpark.

Mock (117) and Chico (112) lead the Diamondbacks' minor league
system in strikeouts this year, both pitching for Double-A
Tennessee. Mock went 4-8 with a 4.95 ERA in 23 starts, while Chico
was 7-2 with a 2.22 ERA in 13 starts.

"Our goal is to trade for pitching, pitching, pitching,"
Bowden said. "And hopefully top pitching prospects that are close
to the big leagues."

Hernandez has been a workhorse since he entered the majors in
1996. He is on pace to make 30 or more starts for the ninth
consecutive year and regularly surpasses 200 innings. He was the
World Series MVP for the champion Florida Marlins in 1997 and later
pitched for the San Francisco Giants.

He was traded to the Montreal Expos in 2003 and remained with
the franchise when it moved to Washington last year. He went 50-43
with the club and was its opening day starter for four straight

But Hernandez had not been his old self after a buildup of fluid
on his knee affected his mechanics following his outstanding start
in 2005. He was 12-3 with a 3.48 ERA when he appeared in his second
straight All-Star game, but he went 3-7 with a 4.58 ERA over the
second half of the season.

Hernandez had surgery after the season but was still bothered by
the knee in spring training this year. He took an extended break
between starts over the All-Star break to give the knee some rest --
and hasn't allowed more than three runs in a start since.

Bowden said the Nationals have yet to figure a plan to replace
Hernandez in the rotation the rest of the season. He said the team
will purchase the contract of right-hander Chris Schroder from New
Orleans on Tuesday. Schroder will be assigned to the bullpen.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.