After the last game of the season Sunday, second baseman Cesar Hernandez did not sound like he expects to return to the Phillies next year.
The Phillies dealt with a logjam in the infield for much of the season. It started off with J.P. Crawford and Scott Kingery both making the team to start the season. The acquisition of Asdrubal Cabrera at the trade deadline only complicated matters, especially when Crawford returned from injury.
Next year, the team would like not to have to deal with the same situation, forcing their players out of position. Kingery, a natural second baseman, was forced to play shortstop, third base, and even the outfield at various points of the season with Cesar Hernandez entrenched as the starter at second. With the team already buying in long-term with Kingery, giving him a six-year contract before the season, they would ideally like him to play his natural position. This leaves Hernandez as the odd man out.
Hernandez clearly recognizes that he may be on the move this offseason. Meghan Montemurro of the Athletic tweeted after the game that Hernandez sounded like he expects to be traded during the offseason.
Trading Hernandez would allow the team to move Kingery back to second, instead of having him play out of position (with average at best defense) at shortstop. This would then free the team up to either put Crawford back at shortstop or even pursue a free agent (Manny Machado) to play the position.
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As Montemurro mentions, this will be a harder year to trade Hernandez as his numbers dipped compared to previous seasons. He finished the year with a .253/.356/.362 line with a league-average 100 wRC+. In 708 plate appearances over 161 games, he had 15 home runs, 91 runs scored, 60 runs batted in, 19 stolen bases, 95 walks, and 155 strikeouts. He had a .760 OPS in the first half, but a .647 OPS in the second half, excluding Sunday. Part of this could be explained by the fact that he played through a broken toe he suffered in July.
Hernandez’s trade value was certainly much higher during the last offseason when he was coming off a .294/.373/.421 2017 season.
Last year in the FanSided offseason simulation, Hernandez was part of a five-player trade with the Angels that got back their top prospect. This year, he wouldn’t fetch as large of a return.
Philadelphia will certainly be active this offseason, and Hernandez at least feels like he might be involved. It was already something that people expected, but now those rumors have even more weight.