The Tigers and veteran into the field Cesar Hernandez agree to a minor league contract, tweets Jon Heyman of the New York Post. The Octagon client will be invited to big league camp this spring. If Hernandez makes the roster, he will earn a base salary of $1.5MM with the potential to unlock more through incentives, according to Evan Petzold of the Detroit Free Press put.
Hernandez spent the 2022 season with the Nationals but struggled with the worst offensive performance of his decade-long MLB career, batting just .248/.311/.318 in 617 plate appearances. Hernandez, who turns 33 in May, surprisingly hit just one home run with the Nationals – despite hitting a career-high 21 long balls a year earlier. Going back to 2018, Hernandez averaged 14 homers per 600 plate appearances, making last year’s power outage especially unexpected.
Defensively, Hernandez is traditionally a second baseman, although the Nass gave him some time at third base and left field last year. Hernandez posted average defensive grades at second base in 2019-20 before seeing metrics like Defensive Runs Saved and Out Above Average agree that his glove work at the position had declined rapidly, starting in 2021. Felt Both DRS and OAA said he was average or better at the job. Limited looks at third base and left field, for what it’s worth.
While last season was a clear low point for Hernandez, he has long been a solid everyday option in the key. From 2016-21, the switch hitter posted a combined .271/.348/.394 batting line with a moderate blend of power and speed, consistently above average walk rates and consistently below average strikeout rates. That is the player the Tigers hope they are getting in this non-guaranteed deal.
The Tigers’ infield mix is pretty complete, but it’s possible Hernandez could still carve out a role. As it is, the team hopes to deploy Spencer Torkelson at first base, Jonathan Schoop secondly, Javier Baez short-lived and Nick Maton at the third. That said, Torkelson, a former No. 1 overall pick, didn’t set the tone. 1, established himself as a viable big league bat in his rookie campaign and will likely have to earn a spot in the lineup this spring. If he struggles, it’s possible that Schoop could spend some time at first base, giving Hernandez some potential replacements. Additionally, if the Tigers are comfortable bouncing to multiple spots, Hernandez could find himself in a utility role out of the gate.