HomeMLB RumorsDodgers To Sign Teoscar Hernandez

Dodgers To Sign Teoscar Hernandez

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The Dodgers have agreed to a one-year, $23.5MM deal with outfielder Teoscar Hernandez, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan (X links).  Only $15MM of that salary will be paid to Hernandez this year, as the rest is deferred and will be paid out in installments from 2030-39.  Reporter Moises Fabian (via X) was first with the news that Hernandez had signed with Los Angeles.  Hernandez is represented by Republik Sports.

Reports about the Dodgers’ interest in Hernandez surfaced soon after the free agent market opened back in early November, and L.A. maintained that interest all the way up until today’s agreement.  The Dodgers were known to be still be looking for a right-handed bat, and they’ve now addressed that need in a big way with a former All-Star and Silver Slugger who has hit 147 home runs over 3002 plate appearances since the start of the 2018 season.

After a string of productive years with the Blue Jays, Hernandez was dealt for Erik Swanson and Adam Macko last offseason, and Hernandez’s move to Seattle resulted in a downturn in his production.  While he still went yard 26 times, Hernandez batted only .258/.305/.435 over 678 plate appearances, and his 105 wRC+ was well below his 133 wRC+ from 2020-22.  Since Hernandez’s underlying metrics were largely the same as his career norms, it seems possible that the biggest culprit was simply T-Mobile Park.  Hernandez hit only .217/.263/.380 in the Mariners’ home ballpark last season, as opposed to a much stronger .295/.344/.486 slash line on the road.

While Dodger Stadium has something of a pitcher-friendly reputation itself, it stands to reason that the 31-year-old Hernandez might get back on track in a new environment, and this one-year deal might reflect his desire to re-establish himself before committing to a longer-term contract.  MLB Trade Rumors ranked Hernandez 12th on our list of the winter’s top 50 free agents and projected him for a four-year, $80MM deal, under the logic that the offseason’s lack of premium bats would still lead to a big contract for Hernandez even in the wake of an underwhelming 2023 campaign.

It could also be the case that Hernandez was open to a one-year pact specifically to join the Dodgers, as the outfielder is now joining arguably baseball’s most loaded lineup.  Los Angeles already racked up plenty of runs in their 100-win 2023 campaign, and that powerful collection of position players has now added Shohei Ohtani to the DH spot and Hernandez to a corner outfield role.

Hernandez now gets to join a contender and possibly win a World Series ring, while ideally posting a better platform year that would allow him to score a big multi-year contract next winter.  The Angels and Red Sox were two other teams known to be in the running for Hernandez’s services, and reporter Francys Romero and MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo (X links) each relayed that those teams had interest in the outfielder on two-year deals.  In Boston’s case, Cotillo wrote that the Sox were interested in something akin to a two-year, $28MM pact.

Hernandez now looks to be the Dodgers’ everyday option primarily in left field, though he could slide over to right field when a left-hander is on the mound (thus sending Jason Heyward to the bench).  L.A. is still perhaps a little unbalanced with left-handed hitters in its first-choice lineup, yet Hernandez now joins Mookie Betts and Will Smith as big righty swingers, plus the Dodgers have other right-handed bats in Chris Taylor, Manuel Margot, and Miguel Rojas available off the bench.

Margot was also recently acquired as part of the Tyler Glasnow trade with the Rays but is known more for his defense than his bat.  Taylor can fill in at multiple positions, and his hitting also became a question mark after a down year in 2022, though he did bounce back with a 104 wRC+ over 384 PA last season.  Having Taylor as a supersub around the diamond is perhaps a better use for his skillset than a regular spot in left field, even if defensive metrics have been mixed at best about Hernandez’s outfield glovework during his career.

Hernandez has never drawn many walks during his career, and his high strikeout totals add even more swing-and-miss to a team that already saw Taylor, Josh Outman, Max Muncy, and even Ohtani rank well below the league average in strikeout rate in 2023.  Still, the relative lack of contact is something of a minor flaw compared to the huge upside provided by the Dodgers’ overall offensive attack.

The deferred money will lower the luxury tax number on Hernandez’s $23.5MM salary, but his signing represents yet another big expenditure for a Los Angeles team that has basically lapped the rest of the league combined in offseason spending.  Led by Ohtani’s $700MM deal and Yoshinobu Yamamoto’s $325MM contract, the Dodgers have now spent slightly under $1.067 billion on free agents alone this winter, to say nothing of the extra money taken on when L.A. acquired and then extended Glasnow.  As per Roster Resource, the Dodgers’ tax number for 2024 now sits at roughly $302.32MM, well over the Competitive Balance Tax’s highest penalty threshold of $297MM.

Even with the luxury tax bill continuing to escalate, there is little reason to think L.A. is done making moves, as starting pitching continues to be a need even after adding Yamamoto and Glasnow.  More signings obviously can’t be ruled out, or the Dodgers could move more young talent in other trades for another starter.  The sky is basically the limit for Los Angeles at this point, as the Dodgers have outpaced even their usual high-spending ways in building a veritable superteam with Ohtani, Betts, Yamamoto, and Freddie Freeman among the cornerstones.

More to come….


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