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.
- Jose Altuve (Astros)
- Jose Ramirez/Jason Kipnis (Indians)
- Brian Dozier (Twins)
- Daniel Murphy (Nationals)
- Dustin Pedroia (Red Sox)
- Jonathan Schoop (Orioles)
- Dee Gordon (Marlins)
- Robinson Cano (Mariners)
- Ian Kinsler (Tigers)
- DJ LeMahieu (Rockies)
Young But Talented
- Yoan Moncada (White Sox)
- Whit Merrifield (Royals)
- Ozzie Albies (Braves)
- Javier Baez/Ian Happ (Cubs)
- Devon Travis (Blue Jays)
- Joe Panik (Giants)
- Chris Owings/Brandon Drury (Diamondbacks)
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.