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Bringing César Hernández back to Philadelphia could fill infield hole for Phillies


César Hernández played seven seasons in Philadelphia. Could a return make sense for the second baseman? (Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire)

Second baseman César Hernández spent seven seasons as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies from 2013 until 2019. Now, just one year removed from being non-tendered by the team, a reunion between the two could make sense for both sides.

Hernández signed with Cleveland for one season last offseason for $6.25 million, and posted one of the best seasons of his career in 2020. In 58 games, the infielder had an on-base percentage of .355 and slugged .408, good for his best OPS in three seasons at .763. Defensively, Hernández earned the first Gold Glove of his career, winning the award for American League second basemen.

Hernández emerged as a reliable leadoff option for the Phillies in 2016 and 2017 when he had a combined .372 on-base percentage, but was less successful in his final two seasons in Philadelphia. His on-base percentage was only .345 in those two years before the team decided to move on from the infielder.

However, the 30-year-old appeared to be a lot closer to the player he was at his best for the Phillies while playing in Cleveland. In fact, his offensive numbers were similar to his 2016 season — which was also his best full season defensively — with an OPS just one point lower. Of course, 2020 was a shortened season, but Hernández looked to be back to producing in the way he did when he was most successful.

The Phillies currently sit in a position with a lot of uncertainty in their infield. Shortstop Didi Gregorius, a powerful middle-of-the-order bat, is a free agent after the team did not issue him a qualifying offer. Scott Kingery, who has played all over the infield and has spent a lot of time in center field, has still not proven himself as a consistent major-league regular. So, unless the team does re-sign Gregorius, the Phillies have an obvious hole in the infield until shortstop prospect Bryson Stott potentially comes up and is ready to contribute.

Bringing back Hernández would not be the flashiest move, but it would allow the Phillies to return a legitimate major-league regular for a limited cost, as he is projected to receive $6 million in free agency by MLB Trade Rumors. The Phillies would have to move Jean Segura from second base back to shortstop if they sign Hernández, which might not be a move they prefer. But if Hernández can sustain his improvements from this past season, he could provide more value than any shortstop the team would be willing to sign.

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