Infielder Cesar Hernandez, one of the game's most underrated players, is returning to Cleveland for 2021. Hernandez has a new contract agreement in place with Cleveland, reports MLB Network's Jon Heyman It's a one-year deal worth $5 million with a club option for 2022. The team has not confirmed the signing.
Hernandez, 30, won the AL Gold Glove at second base last year while posting a .355 on-base percentage and tying for the league lead with 20 doubles. A switch-hitter, Hernandez has been an average or better offensive player throughout his career thanks to his on-base ability, and he's always been a standout defender as well. Since 2016, he's averaged 2.7 WAR per 162 games.
Cleveland acquired Andres Gimenez and Amed Rosario, two natural shortstops, in the Francisco Lindor trade. It has been assumed one would play second base with the other remaining at short, but the Hernandez re-signing changes the equation. Rosario could move to another position -- center field has long been rumored as a possible destination -- or Gimenez could return to the minors.
With Hernandez back in the fold, Cleveland's regular lineup could look something like this:
- 2B Cesar Hernandez
- LF Josh Naylor
- 3B Jose Ramirez
- DH Franmil Reyes
- 1B Jake Bauers
- C Roberto Perez
- CF Oscar Mercado / Bradley Zimmer
- SS Andres Gimenez / Amed Rosario
- RF Daniel Johnson / Jordan Luplow
Following the Lindor trade, Cleveland's payroll was an MLB low $37.5 million, according to Cot's Baseball Contracts. The club was projected to run a $119.6 million payroll prior to proration last year. Payroll is undoubtedly coming down because of the pandemic, though it's hard to believe Cleveland will begin 2021 with a payroll this low.
Now that Hernandez has re-signed, Cleveland could look to bring in an outfielder and bullpen help, and possibly a first baseman as well. Our R.J. Anderson ranked Hernandez the No. 32 free agent on the market.