MLB

Tigers Cesar Hernandez Agrees to Minor League Deal

The Tigers and veteran infielder Cesar Hernandez agree to a minor league contract, tweets Jon Heyman of the New York Post. The Octagon client will be invited to major league camp this spring. If Hernandez makes the roster, he will earn a base salary of $1.5 million with the potential to unlock more via incentives, Evan Petzold of the Detroit Free Press adds.

Hernandez spent the 2022 season with the Nationals, but struggled to the worst offensive performance of his decade-long MLB career, hitting just .248/.311/.318 in 617 plate appearances. Hernandez, who turns 33 in May, surprisingly only hit one home run with the Nationals — despite hitting a career-high 21 long balls a year earlier. As of 2018, Hernandez had averaged 14 homers per game. 600 plate appearances, which made last year’s blackout particularly unexpected.

Defensively, Hernandez has traditionally been a second baseman, although the Nats gave him some time at third base and in left field last year. Hernandez posted roughly average defensive marks at second base in 2019-20 before seeing metrics like Defensive Runs Saved and Outs Above Average agree that his glovework at the position had declined rapidly beginning in 2021. Both DRS and OAA felt that he was average or better in limited looks at third base and in left field, for what it’s worth.

Although last season marked an obvious low point for Hernandez, he has long been a solid everyday option at the cornerstone. From 2016-21, the switch hitter hit a combined .271/.348/.394 batting line with a modest mix of power and speed, consistently above average walk rates and consistently below average strikeout rates. That will be the player the Tigers hope they get on this non-guaranteed deal.

The Tigers’ infield mix is ​​relatively full, but it’s possible Hernandez could still carve out a role. As it stands, the team hopes to be implemented Spencer Torkelson at first base, Jonathan Schoop in the second round, Javier Baez at shortstop and Nick Maton on third. That said, Torkelson, the former No. 1 overall pick, didn’t establish himself as a viable big league bat in his rookie campaign and will likely have to earn his spot in the lineup this spring. If he struggles, it’s possible Schoop could spend some time at first base, which would open up some potential reps at second for Hernandez. Furthermore, if the Tigers are comfortable bouncing him to multiple spots, Hernandez could simply win a utility role out of the gate.

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