Cleveland’s quiet offseason on the free agent market ended formally on Friday, when the city’s baseball team announced the return of second baseman Cesar Hernandez.
Salary slashing had been the theme of the Tribe’s winter front office work, with tens of millions cut from the payroll in the releases of Carlos Santana, Brad Hand, Tyler Naquin, and Delino DeShields among others and the trades of Carlos Carrasco and Francisco Lindor. With future pending financial obligations at a shockingly low figure and with only a handful of players slated to make much more than pre-arbitration rates, the club elected to reallocate a few of the available funds to bring back one of the Indians’ best surprises in 2020 in Hernandez.
According to Spotrac, Hernandez will earn $5 million for the 2021 campaign. The pact also includes a club option for 2022 with no buyout to be paid in the event the option is declined.
Hernandez joined the Cleveland organization in the final days of the 2019 calendar, agreeing at that time to a one-year, $6.25 million contract after spending his first 13 years of professional baseball (2007-2019) as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies organization. That included time over the last seven years of that term as a member of the parent club.
Hernandez appeared in 58 of Cleveland’s 60 games during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, posting a .283/.355/.408 slash and a 1.8 bWAR. He led the American League with 20 doubles and added three homers and 20 RBI to his offensive output. The bulk of his work came out of the leadoff spot, where he took advantage of the opportunity to set the table for Lindor, Jose Ramirez, Santana, and others behind him.
His contributions were not limited to the batter’s box. He served as the Tribe’s regular second baseman throughout the year, committing just four errors in 210 chances (0.981 fielding percentage) on the way to winning his first career Gold Glove Award.
Hernandez will have a new double play partner up the middle this season. Amed Rosario and Andres Gimenez, both acquired from the New York Mets in the Lindor trade last month, are candidates for innings at shortstop this season.
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