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Former Phillies infielder César Hernández returns to NL East, signs with Nationals


César Hernández is returning to the NL East. (Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire)

Move over, Max Scherzer. You’re not the only major-league vet making his way back to the National League East.

That’s right. After a two-year hiatus, former Phillies second baseman César Hernández is on his way back to the division he called home for the first seven seasons of his major-league career.

Hernández signed a one-year deal with the NL East’s Washington Nationals — Scherzer’s old club — as announced by the club on Tuesday night. The contract guarantees him $4 million with a chance for $1 million in incentives, Jon Heyman of MLB Network and Audacy Sports reported.

The 31-year-old Hernández made his debut with the Phillies in 2013 after signing with the team as a 16-year-old out of Venezuela in 2006. He established himself as a major-league regular by the 2015 season, spending a significant portion of his time in Philadelphia as the team’s leadoff batter. Across 832 games in seven years, Hernández hit .277/.352/.381 with 46 home runs, 27 triples and 80 stolen bases. He led the majors in triples in 2016 with 11 and led the NL in infield hits in 2016 and 2019.

The Phillies non-tendered Hernández following the 2019 season, and he signed a one-year deal with Cleveland. In the shortened 2020 campaign, he led the American League in doubles with 20 and was awarded the AL Gold Glove Award at second base.

Hernández re-signed in Cleveland for this past year and was showing signs of added power, but wasn’t exhibiting the on-base skills he did earlier in his career. He was traded midseason to the White Sox and his performance dropped even further. Overall in 2021, Hernández batted .232/.308/.386 in 149 games with a career-high 21 home runs. His .308 on-base mark was his lowest in a full season. Chicago declined Hernández’s team option following the season.

His deal with the Nationals came ahead of the impending expiration of the current collective bargaining agreement between Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association, which has resulted in an influx of free-agent signings — including the aforementioned Scherzer’s blockbuster three-year, $130 million deal with the New York Mets. The CBA expires on Wednesday at 11:59 p.m. Eastern. If there is no new deal before then, which seems unlikely at this point, the owners will lock out the union. Before that happens, expect some additional roster moves to materialize.

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