After two years of limited playing time with the big club in 2013 and ’14, Cesar Hernandez finally got his shot to play everyday in last year. After the departure of Chase Utley in August 2015, the 26-year-old, along with Odubel Herrera, offered an interesting one-two punch at the top of the order, providing speed and energy.
Hernandez started out with a pedestrian .273 average and .316 on-base percentage through June. Since then, the switch-hitting second baseman got stronger as the year progressed; his numbers from July to season’s end: .312 AVG and a .412 OBP.
When the dust settled, Hernandez had a rather impressive 2016 season: .294/.371/.393 with 31 extra-base hits in 622 plate appearances. Hernandez’s average and OBP numbers ended up better than Herrera’s, who the Phils will most likely lock up after the 2016 All Star is eligible for arbitration next offseason.
Hernandez is line for salary arbitration this offseason as he falls under the classification of a “Super Two” player. He would likely earn about $2.5 million this year, according to MLB Trade Rumors. After that he’ll be receiving salary arbitration for three more seasons, with each amount increasing considerably, long as he remains a palatable starter.
So here’s a question: What if the Phillies attempted to forgo the arbitration route with Hernandez and, instead, offer him a multi-year deal? The deal means a modicum of security for Hernandez, plus it would mean the Phils are setting a known value on Hernandez’s play and not risking the year-to-year dice roll.
But has he earned that kind of offer? Judging by his recent numbers, it certainly looks like it. But the Phils need to be cautious with Hernandez, as he does have some limitations:
- Though Hernandez hits for average and gets on base, he has zero threat of power. Hernandez ranked next-to-last in extra base hits among second baseman in 2016. At the very least, some gap power from Hernandez can be huge.
- Hernandez’s base running skills leave a lot to be desired. He was caught stealing 13 times out of 17 attempts and has had some “WHAT ARE YOU DOING????” moments while on the base paths. Can we bring Davey Lopes back?
- It’s not certain that Hernandez can lead off everyday for a winning club.
With that said, Hernandez is eligible for arbitration for the next three years, so he won’t be going anywhere. I think Hernandez needs another year similar to the one he had last season in order to deserve a multi-year offer.
Then when we can talk. In a perfect world, the Phils get good again and Hernandez is hitting close to .300 with an OBP of .370 from the seven or eight hole. Hernandez would be exceptional at turning the lineup over, thus leading to more at bats for the guys at the top.
But Hernandez has to prove himself just one more time. No long-term deal yet, but another year like last would make it a tempting possibility.