Ron Costello

Monday, January 8, 2018

Winter is a Time for Speculation

Sometimes being good isn't good enough. Cesar Hernandez is a good major league second baseman.

He's got to be the most underrated and underappreciated player on the Phillies 40-man. If not for one slight "situation," he could be the club's second baseman for the next five years. And his price tag is reasonable: He's young and cheap.

Hernandez was paid $2.55 million in 2017. He is unsigned and arbitration-eligible for 2018. The Phillies offered him a contract but the length and amount are unknown. Sources say it could double his 2017 salary. Usually, clubs sign a player off arbitration before trading him.

Last season Hernandez hit .294, with an excellent on-base-percentage of .373 — third amongst NL second baseman, and an OBP ten points higher than the latest free agent signee, Carlos Santana. Besides home runs and RBIs, the biggest differences between Hernandez and Santana are taking walks, Santana 88, Hernandez 61. And Hernandez would have more stolen bases, says Pete Mackanin, if he learned to read pitchers and get better jumps.

What is the slight "situation" regarding Hernandez? Phenom prospect Scott Kingery percolating at Triple-A. The safe bet is the Phillies will trade Hernandez before Spring Training starts in February. But, only if they get the right return. There are a whole bunch of teams needing a second baseman, and a bunch of free agent second basemen — the only notable being Steve Pearce, 34, and 39-year-old Chase Utley. Both have been around a while with numbers that aren't close to Hernandez's.

So while the Wizzard plays his little game of chess, he knows Hernandez could bring a nice return, but he also says he's prepared to begin the season with him at second on March 29.

Meanwhile, the best second base prospect in all of baseball will go to Spring Training to win a job, with or without Hernandez in the way.

Here's something else to consider. Let's speculate that the Wizzard makes a good trade for Hernandez: A middle rotation starter. But, Kingery isn't ready in March. Two million would bring Utley to Philly to finish out his career and keep second warm for Scott Kingery. At the same time, teaching the young Phillies how to play the game.

Might not be so far-fetched considering the team's new manager, Gabe Kapler, came from the Dodgers where he was a Chase Utley admirer.

Just remember, you didn't read about it in the newspapers!

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