Cleveland Indians deal Cesar Hernandez to division rival White Sox
The Cleveland Indians have made their first move of the MLB trade deadline, sending second baseman Cesar Hernandez to the division rival Chicago White Sox. A free agent addition prior to the 2020 season, Hernandez re-signed with the Tribe in the offseason. He will go to the White Sox in the midst of a career season with a club option remaining for the 2022 campaign.
Batting atop the Tribe’s lineup, Hernandez has already registered a career-high for home runs in a season, blasting 18 for Cleveland. His average is a bit lower with a slash line of .231/.307/.431, but that will still manage to be an upgrade for the American League Central-leading White Sox.
After losing second baseman Nick Madrigal to injury, the White Sox have been scrambling at second base all season. Leury Garcia has taken a bulk of the time with 28 games started there and Danny Mendick isn’t far behind with 21 games. Combined, they have just five home runs and 15 doubles with an average that lands around the same area as Hernandez’s.
The acquisition here for Chicago seems to be predicated on power. Hernandez will immediately be tied for the team-lead in home runs in Chicago, matching that of Jose Abreu. Beyond them, only Yasmani Grandal and Andrew Vaughn are in double-digits for home runs and Grandal is currently on the injured list.
As for the Cleveland Indians, it always stings a bit more to deal within the division. What this could very well mean is that Cleveland’s focus for the postseason is on the Wild Card, if they care about the postseason at all. Moving Hernandez to Chicago only makes it harder to catch the White Sox, so the division is all but out of reach.
The positive, if there is one in dealing him to Chicago, is that odds are Hernandez will be a free agent at the end of the season. Over the course of his career, Hernandez has really only played second and he’s done it well, winning a Gold Glove just a season ago. He has about 20 games at third and center, but at this point in his career, he’s solely a second baseman.
The issue for the White Sox is that Madrigal is in the same boat. He’s played just second in the majors. With him set to return for next year, at least, Hernandez will be out of a spot in the lineup, essentially making him a rental for Chicago. Even if his contract is very cheap. For that reason, it wasn’t much of a return to Cleveland in the deal.
So far, this is all that’s being reported as the return for Hernandez. A Double-A pitcher who has been middle of the road in Chicago’s system. A third round pick in the 2018 MLB Draft, Konnor Pilkington didn’t even start the season in the White Sox’s Top 30 prospects.
Drafted out of Mississippi State, Pilkington has decent career numbers. He’s consistently floated around the 3.50 to 4.15 ERA range, posting a mark of 3.48 in Double-A this season. Where the upside is comes with his strikeouts and walks per nine.
So far his strikeouts per nine this season is at 10.3 through 62 innings pitched. That definitely shows a sign of potential. On top of that, he’s been able to keep his walks per nine down at 3.0. Again, there’s potential there.
A solid strikeout rate paired with low walk numbers and a reasonable ERA are all good signs. It’s not his fault he’s the core return in a deal with a division rival. Cleveland has surprised with lesser known prospects in the past and perhaps they can do that again with Pilkington. Take his potential and let the farm system, a.k.a The Pitching Factory, work their magic.
What this comes down to is that the Cleveland Indians are officially selling at the trade deadline. Hernandez was a core piece of the team to this point in the season and trading him to a division rival shows the direction this season is headed. Hopefully any other deals that get done bring in a better return, but in many ways Hernandez was the team’s best trade chip and the return is a bit disappointing.