All winter long, it was the same story: how can the Phillies get rid of Cesar Hernandez? The reasoning was simple. With uberprospect Scott Kingery seemingly ready to ascend to the second base throne, trading Hernandez to the highest bidder would unclog a potential glut at the keystone. Hernandez’s value would never be higher either, since he was coming off of back to back 3+ fWAR seasons to go with ever improving defensive numbers. He was under contract for three more seasons, therefore had plenty of that team control that other teams are placing a high value on.
Of course, we now know that Hernandez was not traded, Kingery did make the team and there is still a playing time “issue” going on in Philadelphia. However, this issue does not include Cesar Hernandez. Why?
Because there is an argument that Cesar is one of the best players on this team.
Now, before you begin lighting the torches and rending your garments in protest, hear me out on this. We are all aware how much Rhys Hoskins and Aaron Nola mean to this team. Hoskins gives the team that middle of the lineup threat, providing a deadly combination of power and patience that has been rare on this team for the past eight seasons. He is the player in the lineup right now that other teams game plan for, making sure he is not the one to beat them. Nola, on the other hand, is the team’s ace, the stopper. Even with Jake Arrieta joining the rotation, the clear cut best pitcher is Nola. He is the one that we as fans can count on to go 6-8 innings each night with a better than 50% chance at a quality start each time out.
However, Hernandez, since being installed as the regular starter at second in 2015, has evolved into one of the better, more complete second baseman in the game. Take a look at some of his ranks among second baseman in that time frame. These numbers are where he ranks among 40 qualifiers at the position.
C. Hernandez 2015-18
|MLB Rank (of 40)
|MLB Rank (of 40)
While they might not be eye popping numbers in terms of where he ranks, when one considers where Hernandez came from, it starts to raise an eyebrow. When Hernandez arrived, he seemed as though he would be no better than a utility player at best. There was (and is) almost no power to speak of, the on base ability wasn’t really there and the defense was scattershot at best. Since becoming the man at second, Hernandez has gradually become one of the best players on this team. His on base ability at the top of the lineup has set the tone for this homestand, where he has reached base in 11 of 17 plate appearances. Even though his power is not over the fence power (though he’ll pop one every now and then), his gap to gap power is more than enough, allowing him to utilize his speed to turn doubles into triples, of which he has 17 in the past two seasons. His defense, as seen in the chart above, is one of the best for a second basemen in the game. In other words, Hernandez has become a more complete player than perhaps even the team’s own talent evaluators ever envisioned.
Were he to be traded, this team would undoubtedly be worse off. Sure Kingery would be plugged right into second base, filling that gap, but think about this: with the way this team is currently constructed, isn’t Kingery being available to move to different spots a valuable asset? If J.P. Crawford isn’t hitting for a stretch, Kingery is able to give him a blow for a game or two. Should someone like Odubel Herrera go down for an extended period, Kingery could fill in admirably in center field. Kingery’s ability to be a superutility player right now is perfect for filling in any gaps that might show up in the lineup. If he was given a regular spot at second base, then perhaps that spot on the roster becomes a downgrade. Getting rid of Hernandez would cause an unnecessary chain reaction to the roster construction.
I’m not totally opposed to trading Hernandez. If a team comes along with the right package, one that includes a team’s top 5 prospect, then yes, it would almost be irresponsible to not trade him. For now, with this team growing into something quite good offensively, it would be a mistake to get rid of one of the catalysts of that offense. He is doing things that the team needs (getting on base, providing valuable defense) in order to win. If those things are removed from the lineup, the team’s chances of winning games decreases. So instead of dreaming on where Hernandez would fit best around the major leagues, perhaps we as fans should be looking at where he fits best on the next Phillies playoff team.