Cleveland Indians: Are Castellanos, Hernandez good fits for Tribe?

A Twitter follower recently pitched the idea of signing Nicholas Castellanos and Cesar Hernandez in free agency. Here are our breakdowns of the proposals.

Every now and then, we like to give our readers and followers a chance to offer up the subject of a story. How we go about this, if you’re new to the site, is by tweeting from our site account with requests for questions, ideas, commentary, or all of the above, regarding the Cleveland Indians.

In turn, we take your input and address it in a story. Feel free to interact with us at all times, but especially if you have an idea you’d like to see written about. We’re always interested in hearing our readers’ thoughts on the state of the Tribe, and we’re happy to take those ideas and run with them in full-length, detailed responses.

Our most recent request yielded only two inquiries, but true to our word, we are here to discuss them. Here are the questions from one reader on how the Indians might go about addressing a couple of roster needs this winter.

Question 1: Could Nicholas Castellanos split right field and designated hitting duties with Franmil Reyes?

The Indians aren’t known for shopping on the top shelf in free agency, and Nicholas Castellanos is probably the most desirable outfielder on this year’s market. He won’t turn 28 until a few weeks before the regular season starts, has 30-homer upside with a 25ish-homer floor, and has posted a wRC+ well above 100 in each of his last four campaigns.

At his age, a five-year deal seems appropriate, and it wouldn’t come as a shock if he nets somewhere in the neighborhood of $60-70 million over the duration of his contract. American League teams with deeper pockets may even be willing to exceed the five-year term with the idea that he can transition into a full-time DH later on.

While the Indians could use another thumper in the middle of their order, Castellanos doesn’t fit the Tribe’s across-the-board needs well enough to warrant giving him what he’s likely to get this winter.

Castellanos is not an exceptional defensive outfielder; his negative-nine defensive runs saved in 2019 was actually an improvement on his 2018 mark of negative-19.

He’s also a right-handed bat, which the Indians have in abundance. Among the Tribe’s locks to start on Opening Day, only switch-hitters Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, and Carlos Santana can hit from the left side of the plate.

Castellanos would undeniably help the Indians win ballgames in a vacuum, but based on their roster needs and the salary he’s looking at, it would be a surprise to see the Tribe allocate resources toward him.

Question 2: Is Cesar Hernandez a candidate to round out the infield?

For better or worse, yes, Cesar Hernandez is a very realistic candidate to be the Indians’ second baseman on Opening Day 2020. Hernandez was non-tendered by the Phillies, and is now in search of a new home.

He’s a natural fit in Cleveland. The Tribe has yet to replace Jason Kipnis at second base, Hernandez is a switch-hitter, and he won’t break the bank. How much he can help the team is a different question.

Hernandez wasn’t a bad offensive player by any stretch of the imagination in 2019, but it’s disconcerting that he posted his least impressive hitting campaign in four years on by far the most talented team he’s ever been a part of (in a “juiced-ball” season, no less).

His on-base percentage and wRC+ were his lowest since 2015, and he hit just 14 home runs in 667 plate appearances. He also posted the lowest walk rate of his career, and stole the fewest bases in any full season of his career. Defensively, he saved six runs at second base, which was admittedly his best campaign ever in that regard.

A potential Hernandez signing wouldn’t be cause for over-the-top celebration, but it also wouldn’t be a sign of the apocalypse. He’s a serviceable player who fits a position of need, has switch-hitting ability, and could even take over as the Indians’ leadoff hitter if that walk rate should climb back toward his career average.

The important thing to keep in mind in the event that Hernandez does come over to Cleveland is that his price tag should leave the Indians with plenty of flexibility to address other sections of the roster.

Next: The case in favor of trading for Jackie Bradley Jr.

Stay tuned for our next call for input from our readers, and feel free to jump into the conversation. Until then, stay warm and enjoy the upcoming holidays.

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