Cleveland Indians: What does signing Cesar Hernandez mean for 2021?

Cesar Hernandez #7 of the Cleveland Indians (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
Cesar Hernandez #7 of the Cleveland Indians (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images) /
Cesar Hernandez, Cleveland Indians
Cesar Hernandez #7 of the Cleveland Indians (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images) /

Impact on 2021 from Cleveland Indians signing Cesar Hernandez

After an offseason that has been bad news after bad news within the Cleveland Indians organization, the signing of Cesar Hernandez is a much needed bright spot. The gem signing from a year is looking like he’ll be back in a Tribe uniform for another season after a one-year deal worth about $5 million. So, what does this mean for the Cleveland Indians in the upcoming year?

Well, for starters, the Indians get a strong second baseman who is familiar with the team at an even lower discounted price. Despite an impressive season last year that resulted in a Gold Glove, Hernandez’s deal for the upcoming season is more than $1 million lower than his 2020 deal.

Seeing that Hernandez returned to Cleveland on a cheaper deal, it can be assumed that there weren’t better offers on the table. However, that doesn’t mean there wasn’t interest, which brings us to what this deal could mean.

If the Cleveland Indians aren’t playing up to the expected level at the trade deadline, then Cesar Hernandez becomes an intriguing bargaining chip for the Tribe. A Gold Glove infielder on a cheap contract makes him a tradable asset during the season. Plus, his one-year deal makes him an even more appealable target for other teams.

Now, if the Indians are in contention and playing well, then the Hernandez signing is just as valuable. Instead of having to fill three of the four infield positions, the Tribe now just have to fill two, not to mention retaining one of their middle infielders. This might seem like a small victory, but between Hernandez, Andres Gimenez and Amed Rosario the middle infield looks a lot more stable than it was a few months ago when we were talking about prospects who could take over.

From the standpoint of the Cleveland Indians, then the move is really a win-win. Either Hernandez plays the way he did last year and the Indians get another bargain year or he falls flat and is still on a cheap one-year deal, no strings attached for the future. Even in terms of success of the team, it makes sense. If the team is winning, he stays. If not, then he’s easily tradable. So, where’s the downside because there has to be one, right?

There’s only two things that come to mind as possibilities and even those are a bit of a stretch. Bringing Hernandez back could be harmful to future production. It seemed like that slot on the roster was cut out for a prospect looking to get experience, but instead Hernandez returns with no long-term guarantee. Now, the front office knows more on this and perhaps no one was ready to make the leap. Regardless, this is either a band-aid fix or a puzzling decision in that regard.

The other side is that if the Indians are trying to muster a winning lineup, then some of their other moves have been troublesome. Trading Francisco Lindor was going to happen, but letting players like Brad Hand and Carlos Santana walk and sign comparable deals to what they would have received in Cleveland just seems a bit odd. Either you’re all in for the future or you’re not and the Indians are floating somewhere in-between in the upcoming season, at least at this point.

Time will tell what the plan is with Cesar Hernandez and the Cleveland Indians, but at this point it raises as many questions as it solves. On the surface it seems like a great signing for the Tribe that fills a hole on the roster, but long-term could it disrupt the progression of the next wave of talent?

Perhaps the team can solve those questions later in the season by trading Hernandez and adding more future assets in the process, receiving something for a player they would have otherwise watched walk in free agency.

In the here and now, Hernandez coming back is a bright light in a dark offseason for Cleveland. He’s a reliable bat and even more reliable glove that also brings back a much needed sense of continuity in the clubhouse and veteran leadership as well. We’ll see what happens throughout the season and for how much of it Hernandez will be in Cleveland, but for now this is good news.

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