In a certain way, Teoscar Hernandez has been a bit of an overlooked figure on the Blue Jays roster. He wasn’t part of the local core of young talent, he’s not really young himself since he turned 29 in October, and he wasn’t one of the top signing of free agents who have played such a key role for the Jays in 2021 and (the team is hopeful) in the future. Hernandez was in the spotlight when he was voted into the American League’s starting all-star roster last July, marking a late recognition of a player who has quietly been one of baseball’s best hitters over the years. Last 26 months.
If “26 months” seems like an arbitrary timeline, it’s because Hernandez has a pretty clear dividing line almost halfway through his career. Prior to July 16, 2019, it wasn’t like Hernandez was a bad player, having even managed 22 home runs for Toronto in the 2018 season. However, power was pretty much all Hernandez needed. deliver in his first 971 home plate appearances of his MLB career, as he hit 42 home runs but only hit .231 / .292 / .447. That led to a 96 wRC +, and between that below-par offensive production and a far below-par field glove, there were questions as to whether or not Hernandez could become anything more than a part-time player.
Needless to say, these questions have been answered. Hernandez hit a home run against the Red Sox in that July 16 game, then hit two more home runs the next day, essentially heralding his arrival as a top notch hitter. In Hernandez’s last 916 home plate appearances, he’s hit 59 home runs and slashed the slash line by 0.285 / 0.343 / 0.548. His 136 wRC + since July 16, 2019 has only been surpassed by 12 skilled hitters in all of baseball, and he’s also tied for eighth in hitting percentage during that span.
Hernandez made a few mechanical changes to his swing during a minor league demotion earlier in 2019, though there wasn’t really a simple ‘light bulb on’ that Hernandez was suddenly a lot more productive for. Looking at his before and after numbers on July 16, 2019, Hernandez’s walk rates have actually declined over the past 26 months, as his strikeout rates have gone from being nearly the worst in the league to just bad.
Hernandez has always had a lot of tough contracts, and with a BABIP of .350 for the productive half of his career (and a BABIP of .296 before), there is some level of luck in Hernandez’s rise. That said, Hernandez helped himself by making more contact overall and hitting more line readers, with his above-average base stroke allowing him to translate that hard contact into punches.
On the defensive end, Hernandez worked to become a respectable outfielder after struggling so badly on the pitch earlier in his career. Over 926 innings (707 in right field, 212 in left field) this season, Hernandez has a +0.1 UZR / 150 and +1 Outs above par, while the Defensive Runs Saved metric gives him still a score of -2. While a Golden Glove is probably not in Hernandez’s future, he has at least proven that he is not a DH-only player, which could prove to be important for his earning potential. future.
Hernandez was eligible for arbitration for the first time this season and avoided arbitration by accepting a salary of $ 4.325 million. He will get a big raise this winter, then another in the 2022-2023 offseason before becoming eligible for free agency after the 2023 campaign. If Hernandez maintains his attack level next year, he is expected to win roughly $ 17 million in 2022-23 before hitting the open market ahead of its 31-year season.
That is, unless the Blue Jays keep him away from the free market by crafting a contract extension. With more than two years of control over Hernandez, the Jays are in no rush to make a decision one way or the other, and understandably, there are plenty of other issues to be addressed in the meantime. Re-sign impending free agents Marcus Semien and Robbie ray appear to be a priority for the club, and one would imagine the Jays will go to a great length of effort to extend Jose berrios (a free agent after 2022) given how they ditched such a remarkable outlook package to acquire it from the Twins on the trade deadline. Elsewhere on the extension front, Toronto could also seek long-term cost certainty on cornerstones. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette, although both are already controlled until the 2025 season.
In short, Hernandez could find himself a little neglected again, if the Jays are content to move from one year to the next. However, there is some logic in the team exploring a longer deal with the hitter right now. While the Blue Jays are one of the best offensive teams in the league, the roster will take a big hit if Semien leaves, and future depth has been a bit depleted – Cavan Biggio went through a year marked by injuries, Rowdy Tellez was traded to the Brewers, and the best hope Austin martin was dealt with in the Berrios swap.
Speaking of the prospect ranks, Toronto’s farming system has plenty of scheming infielders and pitchers, but the Jays are short of young outfielders ready to make an impact at the big league level. While that may change in the two years leading up to Hernandez’s arrival in free agency, the lack of young depth of field was one of the reasons the Jays felt pressured to sign. George springer this last offseason. No one comes immediately to push for the role of Hernandez, and in any case, Hernandez would seem to have a lot more job security than the much more inconsistent. Randal Grichuk and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. Grichuk is signed until 2023 but provided a below average offense in Toronto, while Gurriel is checked until 2024 but has been part of trade rumors in the past.
Only Hernandez himself (and possibly his agents at Republik Sports) would know the answer to that, but the outfielder could also be eager to lock in the first big paycheck of his professional career. Hernandez earned more in 2021 than he did in the rest of his combined career, as he only received a bonus of $ 20,000 when he first signed with the Astros in 2011. While 7 million + dollars in arbitrary payouts are slated for 2022, Hernandez might not want to risk injury or lower performance next season, so he might be open to a deal with fewer extra years, but maybe a higher average annual value in 2024 or 2025.
The four-year / $ 47 million Grichuk deal in April 2019 is the only major multi-year extension in the Ross Atkins era, so there aren’t many clues as to how this front office might approach a Hernandez extension, or if such a deal is even really on their radar. The exchange that brought Hernandez to Toronto is already one of the smartest moves in Atkins’ tenure as CEO, and that exchange will only look better if a deal can be made so that Hernandez could continue to be a big part of the Blue Jays’ roster for years to come.
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