The Cesar Hernandez Trade Problem

The Phillies have a log jam in the middle infield. They have J.P. Crawford at shortstop, Scott Kingery and Cesar Hernandez at second, and Freddy Galvis still hanging around. In reality the real log jam is just at second base. Cesar Hernandez has turned himself into a really good baseball player, and Scott Kingery has turned himself into a very good prospect. We have evidence that Cesar Hernandez cannot play third base. We don’t have a lot of sample size of Scott Kingery at third, but his arm might be his weakest defensive tool. Even if Kingery or Hernandez could play third it would waste their biggest asset, their glove at second base. The long term solution is then to trade one of them, and of the two, it makes more sense to trade Hernandez because Kingery fits into the Phillies’ timeline better.

Before talking about what the Phillies would want in a trade, let’s eliminate the teams that don’t need Hernandez. I have carved out two groups here, teams with an established veteran on par with Hernandez, and teams with a young or new to MLB second baseman that they want to build around.

Established Veterans

Young But Talented

That then leaves us with these teams: Mets, Rays, Yankees, Reds, Brewers, Pirates, Rangers, Angels, Athletics, Padres, Dodgers

Let’s deal with a couple of these teams immediately. The Yankees have Starlin Castro at second base right now, and while Hernandez is an upgrade on Castro the Yankees have Castro under contract for a few more years and Gleyber Torres in AAA. The Rangers have Rougned Odor and have a long term financial commitment to him and Jurickson Profar in AAA. The Mets have a reasonable club option on Asdrubal Cabrera and they likely pick that up.

Hernandez is 27 with 3 more years of team control, so any team acquiring him is looking to win in the short term. This means we can eliminate the Reds, Athletics (who have Franklin Barretto and a club option on Jed Lowrie), and Padres.

The Phillies have one big organizational need and that is impactful major league pitching. This has led to Phillies fans trying to pry young starters away from teams in a trade. The problem is that if we return to the last point, we see that a team acquiring Cesar Hernandez is looking to compete over the next 3 seasons. Unless a team is loaded with young impactful starting pitching (which is a thing that does not exist), they would be moving themselves laterally by trading from their starting rotation. This means you are really looking for a two step process where you are trading Hernandez for something that isn’t major league pitching (prospects) and then trading something that isn’t Cesar Hernandez (prospects) for the pitching you need.

So this brings us to our remaining teams; the Pirates, Brewers, Angels, Rays, and Dodgers. All of them have some sort of answer at second right now and they all would be in play for the free agent second basemen like Neil Walker, Chase Utley, and Brandon Phillips, as well as trade targets like Ian Kinsler. All of these teams have the prospects to acquire Cesar if they wanted to, however the Pirates and Rays have been reluctant to move prospects for major league assets. The Dodgers have Logan Forsythe who they gave up an asset for last season. This really leaves the Brewers (with a pumpkin Villar) and the Angels. That is not a large market for a very good player.

The Phillies can trade Cesar if they want, but the real moral of this is that they are not going to get what they want in return in a single transaction. To fix their second base log jam the Phillies are going to need to be creative, and maybe that does mean delaying their decision or making a trade with the player who fits their timeline better.

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27 comments

  1. Mike Fassano

    October 19, 2017 04:51 PM

    Crazy talk! If the Phillies can’t get a good starting pitcher out of Hernandez and a few prospects, why not trade him for an A, or AA ball pitcher with a high upside. Galvis could start the season at 2nd base, and move into a utility role when Kingery is ready. So far. so good.
    Here’s where it gets crazy. The other 29 MLB teams aren’t going to be knocking down the doors to sign Buccholz or Hellickson this winter, why not sign one of them to come back next year? Neither one will cost much, and it’s not my money anyway. If he has a good first half, he can be traded at the deadline. We’ll know by the middle of May what fate awaits Velasquez, but this gives the kids a couple of months at AAA to develop some more.

    • Romus

      October 19, 2017 05:10 PM

      MF….to max return for CeHe…he has to be moved this off season or by July’s trade deadline.

      One…the market will be flooded with quality, though aged, 2nd basemen after the 2018 season is completed.
      Two…teams will know the pickle Matt Klentak will be in if Kingery continues to rake at LHV and is forcing himself up to Philly.
      CeHe….could be traded as either added value in a package or possibly straight up. but the longer Klentak waits after July, the harder it will be to get what he wants in return.

      • Mike Fassano

        October 19, 2017 08:06 PM

        Romus – You misunderstood me. Hernandez goes Now, and Galvis starts the season at 2nd base.

      • MplsPhilsFan

        October 20, 2017 02:50 PM

        Romus, not sure I agree with you on the market being flooded with quality 2nd baseman as none of the group of Walker, Utley or Phillips is a quality player at this point. Teams know what they are getting with CeHe at this point, a 2.5-3.5 win player with a good OBP, solid defense and questionable baserunning.

        The teams most likely to make a deal for him I would see as (in order) the Bewers, the Angels, the Dodgers, and the Rangers. All are looking to be competitive teams in 2018 and all have a need at 2b. (Odor will probably be moved to DH or 1B as he is not good at second). Is that a robust market? No, but it is not barren either.

        In my mind a reasonable expected return for CeHe is a couple of prospects, with one probably at the fringe of the top 100, and the other more or a lottery ticket.

      • Romus

        October 20, 2017 03:34 PM

        MplsPhilsFan….not this FA market…after next season….Daniel Murphy heads up that list. That is why you cannot wait too long to deal Cesar. after July next seaon the market will appear to be flooded come November after the 2018 WS is completed.

      • Romus

        October 21, 2017 07:29 AM

        Mpls…here is the whole list for 2018 FA 2nd basemen via MLBTR:
        Second Basemen…….
        Brian Dozier (32)
        Josh Harrison (31) — $10.5MM club option with a $1MM buyout
        Ian Kinsler (37)
        DJ LeMahieu (30)
        Daniel Murphy (34)
        Sean Rodriguez (34)
        Even Freddy Galvis will be out there

    • Eddie

      October 20, 2017 03:36 PM

      If the Phillies can’t get a good starting pitcher out of Hernandez and a few prospects, why not trade him for an A, or AA ball pitcher with a high upside.”

      Uh, that’s what he just said: “This means you are really looking for … trading Hernandez for something that isn’t major league pitching (prospects) and then trading something that isn’t Cesar Hernandez (prospects) for the pitching you need.”

      And for God’s sake, why would you want to bring back washed-up old vets? They have plenty of young, cheap guys that can post a 5.50 ERA just as easily.

  2. Bernie Cohen

    October 19, 2017 07:23 PM

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    Why not go with known commodity.? We don’t know if Kingery is ready or if he will be an upgrade?
    The real question is what do you do with J. P Crawford. There is a real question as to whether he can hit major league pitching? Maybe he brings something in a trade as he is not an upgrade over Freddie defensively.

    • Nick M

      October 19, 2017 11:32 PM

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      I’ve been saying this about JP for a while. I think he is an 8 hole hitter. We have one of those in Galvis. Now, I’m not looking to trade Crawford but if they could land a good young pitcher like Archer or someone like him, I would include Crawford in that sort of deal.

    • Mark

      October 20, 2017 10:58 AM

      How is there a question as to whether Crawford can hit major league pitching? Based on the 23 games in the majors? I’d lean a bit more on his minor league stats where he hit at every level. He’s shown tremendous plate discipline at every level as well including his short stint in the majors. Even if he’s not an upgrade defensively over Galvis, he’s much much better with the bat and 5 years younger. There’s no compelling reason to pick Galvis over Crawford.

      • Romus

        October 20, 2017 02:05 PM

        In 2400 minor leagues PAs JP’s slash is 270/.367/.391 with 14% K rate…and 13% BB rate.
        That tells it all and what to expect long term.
        That OBP, with his above-average speed, in the 2nd hole would generate plenty of RBI opp for Hoskins and whoever follows him in the lineup.

      • Romus

        October 20, 2017 02:07 PM

        My response was suppose to Nick M.

    • Michael C Lorah

      October 20, 2017 11:53 AM

      In 87 MLB plate appearances, even with a low batting average, Crawford had a .356 OBP and his OPS+ was just a shade behind Galvis’s. Crawford graded out extremely well defensively. Yes, he’s needed time to adjust at each level in the minors, but he has hit at every level. He’s five years younger, under five extra years of team control, and several million dollars cheaper. Even if JP Crawford stays where he was in September, he’s still equaling Freddy Galvis’s value and doing so at a fraction of the cost, and there is every reason to think he will improve.

      I’m with Mark – on a team that needs multiple upgrades if they’re going to contend, there is no argument for keeping Freddy Galvis over JP Crawford.

  3. tom

    October 19, 2017 07:47 PM

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    There is no compelling reason to trade Hernandez now. Kingery can use more time in AAA and it wouldn’t hurt him to play 3B there while he is at it. Having depth is not a problem, players get hurt. There is no reason not to field as competitive a team as you can with the young players under you control for a few years. If you want to add pitching help either go the free agent route or trade some lower level prospects to take an expressive pitcher off the hands of a team trying to control costs. Your analysis of the Marlins is incorrect too as they are likely trading Gordon to reduce payroll. I’d actually look to add a somewhat similar player off the Marlins, Derek Dietrich. They are shedding salary and he s estimates to make $3.2 million in arbitration. He hits lefty and can play 1B, 2B, 3B and LF. He would be a good fit.

    • Mark

      October 20, 2017 11:02 AM

      And who is taking on Gordon’s salary? He’s signed through the 2021 season with a salary of $14mm his last year. Don’t know many teams clamoring for that.

      • tom

        October 20, 2017 06:14 PM

        2021 is a team option with a $1million buyout. I bet a lot of teams would be interested especially if Miami pays part of the salary to clear the bigger chunk of money.

  4. Jacob P

    October 20, 2017 06:25 PM

    I wonder if there would be more of a market for Odubel Herrera. I can imagine Hernandez converting to CF (other speedy middle infielders have done it, including Herrera and Roman Quinn), unless his arm is too big of a liability. Herrera might bring back a good pitcher, and it clears a lane for Kingery when he’s ready, with Galvis as a good stopgap until then.

    • Matt Winkelman

      October 21, 2017 12:19 AM

      They tried Cesar in the outfield, he was horrendous st it

  5. ASK

    October 21, 2017 09:01 AM

    Matt,

    This is a great write-up. This situation is a challenge for Klentak and it will be interesting to see how he addresses it. I hope it’s not by trading Hernandez for cents on the dollar.

    What are your thoughts on Kingery? Is the power for real or overly influenced by Reading’s HR-friendly park? I hope they at least shop Kingery this off-season, especially if the market for him is greater than the market for Cesar due to his cost and years of team control. IMO, there are worse ways to resolve the issue than by trading Kingery – if the price is right – and keeping Cesar for his age 28-30 seasons.

    • Andrew R.

      October 21, 2017 01:31 PM

      Finally, a decent comment!! There is no right or wrong in this scenario. The worst case scenario is trading Cesar for nothing, and Kingery not proving to be a starting, mlb regular. Keep Cesar? You have a great player for three years. Trade Kingery? He probably has strong value on the trade market. Either way, a trade of one of Jose two should net a strong return.

      • Steve

        October 21, 2017 07:48 PM

        Cesar is not great. Hes an above average 2b, who hits for average with little power. Kingery, is not a sure thing, but has checked all the boxes so far. He has the potential to hit anywhere in the top third of the lineup and be a difference maker. Not to mention he is what, 3 or 4 years younger. Please dont trade Kingery unless it is part of a package that acquires a Chris Sale-like SP (dominant, young, under contract). Even then, id probably rather Kingery playing in Philly and the FO go buy some arms.

      • Andrew R.

        October 21, 2017 09:41 PM

        Yes, Kingery has potential and checks boxes, etc.,. And maybe “great” was the wrong word to describe Cesar. But to have better-than-Cesar production is a tall order for a guy who has yet to crack the bigs. If he was replacing Freddy, than fine. It’s not that hard to do.

        But let’s see where Kingery lands in terms of how the industry views him, as we will never know how teams will. Acquiring a Chris sale-type will be a steep price. Moncada was a top-3 prospect in the game, and I dint think there is a Sale-type player even available.

        All I was saying was having both isn’t the worst scenario out there.

      • Steve

        October 22, 2017 11:14 AM

        Ok- i agree with you there, having both is not the worst thing in the world. Im not pushing Cesar out the door by any means.
        I expect Kingrey to jump up quite a bit in prospect rankings, although he probably wont get near Moncada status. IMO the worst case scenario is trading Kingry for 2-3 years of a good SP and watching Kingry turn into another team’s Chase Utley or Dustin Pedroia ( Im not just talking about stats, but a franchise cornerstone).
        All im saying is if hes moved it needs to be for a SP that will still be in his prime when the Phillies become contenders again (minimum 2019/2020?) I think you are right, that pitcher probably doesnt exist right now, and Kingry wouldnt be enough alone. With their “log jam” in the infield and an abundance of young MLB OF talent plus MiLB OF prospects, I do expect the Phillies to put together a package for a SP either this year or next year though. If i had to trade one of the two tomorrow, itd be Cesar.

      • John K

        October 22, 2017 10:40 PM

        Andrew, I think the 2B situation this offseason is similar (though not exactly) to last offseason’s situation at 1B.
        Joseph had shown some promise at 1B and some believed in his upside. To those people, Hoskins was a good prospect but expendable if we could get a slightly better return than Joseph. Afterall, Hoskins was not a Top 100 prospect or anything. …But those who had tracked Hoskins knew he was so much more! He had a strong hit tool with great power, but also had outstanding plate discipline (evidenced by BB/K rate year after year), and he had impressive splits between RH/LH and even Home/Away (including Reading) every year. Hoskins was a stronger prospect than his ranking (And he’s proved it in the majors so far)!

        So now, CeHe is coming off 2 impressive years with .360-.370 OBP! He’s improved his SB/CS rate, and he continuously improves his defense. And he’s been our best leadoff hitter in years. I like him much more than I did Joseph a year ago. ….However, to even consider a trade of Kingery for what you hope to get (but may not be able to ) for CeHe, may be a huge mistake! One we may end up negatively judging Klentak on forever. Yes, Kingery only recently slipped into the Top 100 rankings, but like Hoskins I believe he’s a stud. Early this year when fans still wrote that the Phillies are deep but without High-end Studs, I argued that Hoskins and Kingery are arguably among Top 25 prospects in all baseball. Now, Hoskins has proved it. Please do not trade Kingery. let him prove the same. I believe he will. …As Steve wrote, he has “checked all the boxes”. Now let’s sit back and dream and pray. The two of them should be the right side of our IF for the next 10 years and hopefully earn some rings along the way!

    • Kurdt Kobeyn

      October 23, 2017 01:55 PM

      trade values, most of the times are dictated by market. the challenge of Cesar is the really the lack of 2B market who can provide good return to the Phils. so a 2B prospect in Kingery will have the same market challenge in 2B MLB player in Cesar. As the Phils should expect, teams will line up to inquire about Kingery whether they have a need for 2B or not because of the following reasons: a) Kingery has a better package of tools than Cesar; b) Kingery doesn’t require a 40-man spot until next year; c) Kingery is a consensus Top 100 prospect and best 2B prospect; and d) Kingery is way cheaper than Cesar with more years under control.

      With or without MLB experience, the 4 reasons I enumerated above is enough for any GM to stop thinking of trading a prospect like Kingery unless its part of a package for an elite MLB talent like Mike Trout.

      Cesar is a legit MLB player with specific skills (light hitting with high OBP and good defense). Unfortunately, Cesar’s skills are easily replaceable. And the 2B is one of the least demanding position defensively so I would not even give a high premium on Cesar’s defense.

      Klentak should just get the best he can get from Cesar (whether its another MLB player of need or combination of prospects) and continue the current direction of building a young core internally and strike in FA when ready to contend.

      Galvis and Cesar are poster boys of the bad Phillies team – the Phils are a bad team during their tenure. Moving on from both Galvis and Cesar will complete the turning of the page from the bad Phillies team to a new and contending Phillies team.

      • Steve

        October 23, 2017 05:21 PM

        For some reason, the Dodgers keep standing out to me as a good fit for a CeHe trade. Im not sure what they have to offer, but i cant help but see how he would be attractive to them.
        1- He is talented, but not a superstar. (They want good players, but dont need more superstars)
        2- He is in his prime ( they are contenders right now and should continue to be for the next few years)
        3- He’s not terribly expensive (they can afford him, but they have enough big contracts that a quality 2b for less than 8 million is appealing)
        4- He plays 2b and gets on base (utley is declining if not done, no one is sure what to expect of Forsythe, CeHe plugs right in to their one “hole” and can hit top of the order to set the table for Bellinger Seager Turner, or be a very good 7/8 hitter.

        He is good enough to be an everyday player for them, but affordable enough to be expendable should Forsythe return to his 2016 form.
        Im wondering if we packaged Hernandez with a 2nd tier OF prospect (Cozens, Randolph, Quinn etc) and took on one of their bad contracts, could we get a solid return?

  6. Dirk Durstein

    November 01, 2017 11:59 AM

    Hernandez was arguably their best player last year, and definitely their most consistent. He grades better than many of the “established” 2B (Pedroia, Gordon, Kinsler), and I would take him over the young stars noted named Moncada. If an established starter and innings eater (think this year’s version of Jeremy Hellickson) cannot be had, then keep him. If Kingery can hit major league pitching, they can work it out. Hey, this is the team than somehow endured the utter lack of range (combined with utter lack of OBP and SLG) of Placido Flamingo at 3B for several non-productive seasons. Hernandez is better offensively and defensively than Polanco ever was.

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