The Tigers announced that infielder César Hernández has been granted his release. He had been in camp on a minor league deal but had an opt-out opportunity this past weekend.
Hernández, 33 in May, spent many years as a solid infielder for the Phillies, mostly as a second baseman. In four straight years from 2015 to 2018, he walked at a rate of 8.8% or higher and stole at least 15 bases. His power also gradually ticked up in that time, going from a single long ball in 2015 to 15 homers in 2018.
He’s been a bit less consistent in recent years as he’s gone into journeyman mode. He split 2021 between Cleveland and the White Sox, hitting 21 home runs but still finishing with a tepid .232/.308/.386 batting line and 90 wRC+. With the Nationals last year, he hit just a single home run and batted .248/.311/.318 for a wRC+ of 79.
He had to settle for a minor league deal this year, joining a Tigers club with some infield uncertainty. Javier Báez was going to be the shortstop despite a disappointing 2022 campaign. Spencer Torkelson also struggled last year but seemed likely to get another shot to at first. Jonathan Schoop was lined up to play second base after a strange 2022 where he was awful at the plate but great in the field, though he could also move over to first if Torkelson’s struggles continued. Jeimer Candelario was non-tendered but Nick Maton was acquired from the Phillies to take over at third.
Hernández could have been behind those guys in a bench role, as he’s played second, third and short in his career, as well as some outfield work. However, they also have Ryan Kreidler and Zack Short on the roster, and acquired Zach McKinstry from the Cubs just yesterday. Tyler Nevin will start the season on the injured list but will jump into this mix once healthy.
The minor league deal that Hernández signed with Detroit would come with a base salary of $1.5MM if he had made the team, but it seems the Tigers would rather pocket that money and fill out their bench with those other options. He was one of several veterans that had automatic opt-outs in their respective contracts, with the first opportunity being this past weekend. Whether he triggered that opt-out or not, it seems he wasn’t going to crack the roster in Detroit and will now be free to pursue opportunities with all 30 clubs.