Detroit — The Tigers have added another veteran infielder to an already crowded competition, signing second baseman Cesar Hernandez to a minor-league contract with an invitation to spring training next month.
Hernandez, who will be 33 in May, will be entering his 11th big-league season and is coming off one of the worst offensive seasons of his career.
With the Nationals last season, the switch-hitter batted just .240, slugged .390 with an OPS-plus of 87 in 147 games (617 plate appearances). Concerning, too, was a career-low hard-hit rate of 29.7%. After hitting 21 home runs in 2021, most of them while playing for Cleveland, he hit one last season.
From 2015 through 2020, though, playing for the Phillies and Guardians, Hernandez was a tough out, slashing .278/.355/.390 with a .744 OPS, hitting equally well from both sides of the plate. He’s always been a low-strikeout, low-chase contact hitter.
He’s been an average defender at best, playing mostly second base, where he’s a minus-24 defensive runs saved in 1,022 games. He’s also played 33 games at third base (minus-3).
Jonathan Schoop, a Gold Glove finalist at second base who led all defenders in outs above average last season, is expected to go to camp as the Tigers’ regular second baseman. There is a chance, though, given how things shake out, that Schoop could move to third base.
If that should happen, Hernandez would be competing with Nick Maton, Ryan Kreidler and others to play second base.
Hernandez, who earned $9 million the last two seasons with Cleveland ($5 million) and Washington ($4 million) could also enter the mix at third base, where Maton, Kreidler, Tyler Nevin, Matt Vierling and others will be fighting for playing time.
If Hernandez wins a spot on the Tigers’ roster, he will earn $1.5 million.