The Indians are in agreement with infielder César Hernández on a one-year, $6.5 million deal, as ESPN’s Jeff Passan was the first to report on Monday:
Second baseman Cesar Hernandez and the Cleveland Indians are in agreement on a one-year, $6.25 million contract, sources familiar with the agreement tell ESPN.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) December 23, 2019
Hernández’s offensive numbers over the past two seasons are perhaps a bit underwhelming if you look at them from a purely analytical perspective — largely because he lacks great power, and while playing in an extreme hitters’ park during the juiced-ball era, his park and league-adjusted numbers have suffered. But if you look at his recent slash lines, they aren’t terrible by any stretch: He hit .253/.356/.362 with 15 homers in 2018, then posted a .279/.333/.408 slash line with 14 homers this past season. His 2019 season resulted in a higher OPS (.718 to .741) but a lower OPS+ (94 to 91) as offense around the league skyrocketed.
Regardless of his lack of power, Hernandez has historically been a solid defender and posted a career-high six defensive runs saved in 2019, so he should be an upgrade in the field over Jason Kipnis. He had a 2.5 bWAR in 2019 and reached the 3.0-bWAR threshold in 2016-17, so despite the fact that he’s more of a contact hitter, his overall offensive adequacy and sure hands in the field have made him a valuable player even by analytical standards.
With Kipnis not having been re-signed, Cleveland had a massive hole at second base prior to Hernández’s signing that looked as if it would seriously put them behind the 8-ball in the AL Central race if not adequately addressed. Christian Arroyo (.622 career OPS), Andrew Velazquez (.465 career OPS), Yu Chang (.560 OPS as a rookie in 2019), and Mike Freeman, who was outrighted off the 40-man roster but will attend Indians spring training as a non-roster invitee, were among the returning candidates for the second base job. While Hernández doesn’t necessarily make the team a whole lot better than it was last season, he’s at least a major-league starting-caliber player and should allow the team to keep its head above water in 2020.