Today in Tribe History: December 7, 1989
Bob Toth | On 07, Dec 2018
Unwilling to go to four years on a contract with their former first baseman Pete O’Brien, Cleveland adds a veteran bat to the lineup with the signing of free agent first baseman Keith Hernandez to a two-year, $3.5 million contract.
The 36-year-old lefty is a five-time National League All-Star and won the NL MVP in 1979. After his first ten Major League seasons in St. Louis, where he won a World Series in 1982, he spent seven seasons in the Big Apple, winning another ring with the Mets in 1986. He had been limited some over each of the previous two seasons, playing in 95 games in 1988 and 75 games in 1989 after suffering a broken kneecap, all after four straight seasons of 149 games played or more.
Cleveland was not interested in offering four years to O’Brien, who had received similar offers from Seattle and Detroit and was frustrated with how the team had approached its lineup construction during his only season with the club in 1989. The Indians and team president Hank Peters filled the team’s void at first with one of the top three free agent first basemen on the market.
An eleven-time Gold Glove winner, Hernandez was slated to help the Indians at first base, but was limited to just 43 games in the 1990 season while batting .200 with one home run and eight runs batted in. With Hernandez unable to help the lineup, the team had to utilize longtime third baseman Brook Jacoby at the position for nearly half of the season. He had played just seven games at first in the Majors prior to being thrown into the spot for heavier duty. The Indians also used outfielder Dion James in similar fashion; he had just ten games of first base experience at the Major League level prior to seeing 35 games there in 1990.
Hernandez will spend the entire 1991 season on the disabled list, bringing an end to his career.
The signing continued a busy couple of days for the Indians, which traded star outfielder Joe Carter to the San Diego Padres one day earlier for utility man Chris James, catcher Sandy Alomar Jr., and infielder Carlos Baerga.