The cat had long since been out of the bag, but the Cleveland Indians made the news official on Sunday as the team announced the addition of free agent second baseman Cesar Hernandez on a one-year pact.
The other piece of news tied to the delayed signing announcement was somewhat of a surprise, however, as the Indians have designated catcher Eric Haase for assignment.
Hernandez was considered a good fit for the Indians, but with much speculation early in the offseason that the club would look to move Francisco Lindor with second base options rumored as parts of return packages, the Hernandez deal last Monday (after the club reportedly sought “best Lindor offers” the previous weekend) seemed to end any speculation that the Tribe would be wheeling and dealing its star shortstop at the present time. Instead, they have paired with the face of the franchise a 29-year-old 13-year professional who had a quality season with the Philadelphia Phillies last season in his sixth year at the MLB level.
Hernandez will reportedly make $6.25 million in his one-year deal with Cleveland. Last season, he posted a .279/.333/.408 triple slash while leading Philadelphia in hits. He added 31 doubles, three triples, 14 homers, and 71 RBI at the plate and picked off nine of eleven bases on the base paths.
Haase could be on the move as a later-developing, power-hitting catching option, especially for rebuilding clubs out there. Haase, who turned 27 earlier this month, has logged 19 games of action over his previous two September call-ups, owning a .094/.147/.188 slash with three hits (one homer), four RBI, and 14 strikeouts in those 34 plate appearances. Long labeled a beneficiary of the “launch-angle revolution”, Haase joined the Indians via the seventh round of the 2011 draft out of high school and saw his power numbers jump dramatically in 2017, when he slugged 27 homers in 97 games between Double-A Akron and Triple-A Columbus. He has spent each of the last three seasons largely entrenched at the top level of the farm system, parking 27, 20, and 28 homers over the fence in those three seasons, but he has not been able to crack through the Indians’ backstop depth. Big strikeout numbers and low walk tendencies have stood in his way.
The Indians have seven days to place Haase on waivers or trade him. A team claiming him on waivers would add him to their 40-man roster and get potentially six years of control of him, as well as utilize his one remaining option year. If Haase were to pass through waivers unclaimed, he could be sent outright to the minor leagues or be given his release.
The move was surprising to some given the surplus of outfielders and utility types already on Cleveland’s 40-man roster. The Indians have just two catchers on the 40-man now, with Gold Glove and Wilson Overall Defensive Player of the Year Roberto Perez holding the starting spot and switch-hitter Sandy Leon serving as his backup. Kevin Plawecki, who backed up Perez last season, was not tendered a contract after the season. Beau Taylor was signed to a minor league deal with a non-roster invitation to spring training, and the club has further down in the farm system guys like Li-Jen Chu, Logan Ice, Mike Rivera, or 19-year-old Bo Naylor, the team’s top pick in 2018 and number five overall prospect in the farm system (according to MLBPipeline.com) who has topped out at the Class-A Lake County level in his two years of work.
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