The Dodgers have agreed to a one-year, $23.5 million deal with the outfielder Teoscar Hernandezaccording to ESPN's Jeff Passan (X Links). Only $15 million of that salary will be paid to Hernandez this year, while the rest is deferred and will be paid in installments from 2030 to 2039. Reporter Moises Fabian (via X) was the first with the news of Hernandez signing with Los Angeles. Hernandez is represented by Republic Sports.
Reports of the Dodgers' interest in Hernandez surfaced shortly after the free agent market opened in early November, and Los Angeles maintained that interest all the way up to today's agreement. The Dodgers are known to still be looking for a right-handed bat, and now they've filled that need in a big way with the former All-Star and Silver Slugger hitting 147 home runs over 3,002 games since the start of the 2018 season.
After a series of productive years with the Blue Jays, Hernandez was traded for Eric Swanson and Adam McCue last offseason, and Hernandez's move to Seattle saw his production decline. While he still went to the yard 26 times, Hernandez hit just .258/.305/.435 over 678 plate appearances, and his 105 wRC+ was well below his 133 wRC+ from 2020-22. Since Hernandez's baseline metrics have been largely the same as his career benchmarks, it seems possible that T-Mobile Park could be the biggest culprit. Hernandez hit just .217/.263/.380 in the Mariners' outfield last season, in contrast to a much stronger .295/.344/.486 slash line on the road.
While Dodger Stadium has a good reputation among pitchers, it would make sense for the 31-year-old Hernandez to get back on track in a new environment, and this one-year deal may reflect his desire to re-establish himself before committing to a long-term contract. MLB Trade Rumors ranked Hernandez 12th on our list of the top 50 free agents for the winter and projected him on a four-year, $80 million deal, under the logic that an offseason's lack of quality at-bats would still result in a big contract for Hernandez even in the wake of the 2023 campaign. Disappointing.
It may also be the case that Hernandez was open to a one-year deal specifically to join the Dodgers, as the outfielder now joins baseball's most loaded lineup. Los Angeles has already racked up plenty of runs in its 100-win campaign in 2023, and this strong group of position players has now added Shohei Ohtani to the DH position and Hernandez to a corner outfield role. Hernandez can now join a contender and possibly win a World Series ring, while ideally posting a better year on the podium that would allow him to score a big multi-year contract next winter.
Hernandez now appears to be the Dodgers' everyday option primarily in left field, although he could slide to right field when the left-hander is on the mound (thus sending Jason Heyward to the bench). Los Angeles may still be a bit unbalanced with left-handed hitters in their first-round pick lineup, however Hernandez now joins Mookie Betts and Will Smith as right-handed big leaguers, plus the Dodgers have another right-handed hitter in Chris Taylor, Manuel Margot, and Miguel Rojas are available on the bench.
Margot was also recently acquired as part of the Tyler Glasnow trade with the Rays but is known more for his defense than his bat. Taylor can fill multiple positions, and his hitting is also a question mark after a down year in 2022, although he bounced back with a 104 wRC+ over .384 PA last season. Having Taylor as a super-sub around the diamond might be a better use of his skill set than taking a regular spot in left field, even if the defensive metrics have been mixed at best around Hernandez's outfield gloves during his career.
Hernandez has never racked up many walks during his career, and his high strikeout totals add more swings and misses to a team that has already seen Taylor, Josh Ottman, Max Muncy and even Ohtani rank well below the league average in strikeout rate in 2023. However , the relative lack of contact is a minor blemish compared to the tremendous upside provided by the Dodgers' overall offensive attack.
More is coming….
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