Slugging OF Hernández joins star-studded Dodgers on 1-year deal

January 17th, 2024

LOS ANGELES -- Going into free agency, All-Star outfielder was expecting a lot of teams to come calling for his services. He was committed to signing a multiyear deal with his new team.

But as the Hot Stove remained dormant for most of the winter, Hernández had to re-evaluate his options. When he sat down to make his decision, Hernández had a couple of offers on the table for a multiyear deal. The Angels showed interest, and the Red Sox went as far as offering him a two-year deal, sources told

Hernández’s other offer was from the Dodgers, but it was just for one season. Over the course of his career, he had always admired the Dodgers’ year-in, year-out success. In the end, Hernández decided to jump on the idea of signing a one-year, $23.5 million deal, becoming the latest addition in a wild offseason for Los Angeles.

“For me, it wasn’t hard to make the decision to go with the Dodgers because I know coming to this organization is going to give me more experience,” Hernández said Tuesday. “In this free agency, I want to go to a team that can compete and be in the playoffs and an organization that makes me a better player, so that’s the biggest reason I signed with the Dodgers.”

Even after adding Shohei Ohtani, Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Tyler Glasnow and Manuel Margot, the Dodgers were in the market for a right-handed-hitting outfielder who could hit lefties and hold his own against right-handed pitching.

Hernández was identified as an early target for the Dodgers this winter. A consistent power source, Hernández is one of 12 players to hit at least 25 homers in each of the past four full seasons. That includes his 26 dingers last year with the Mariners, whom he joined following an offseason trade from Toronto. Yet his 2023 season didn’t quite live up to expectations for a player who received MVP votes and was a Silver Slugger winner in 2020 and 2021.

“You can see in my numbers that there’s a big gap between playing on the road and at home,” Hernández said. “It was more getting confidence at home and trying to do the same things I do when we play on the road.”

Regardless of the ballpark, one thing Hernández has always excelled at is hitting left-handed pitching, with a career .887 OPS against southpaws. With the Dodgers, Hernández will be an everyday player, settling in at left and right field.

With Hernández on board, Los Angeles will likely not be adding any more position players this winter. General manager Brandon Gomes also confirmed that the addition of Hernández will result in Mookie Betts playing more second base.

“This is certainly an addition where it feels like Mookie will be playing the vast majority of second base,” Gomes said. “TBD on if he'll be needed in the outfield or not, but it certainly feels like less of a need than it was prior to this.”

After registering a wRC+ of 130 or better in each of his final three years with the Blue Jays, Hernández turned in a 105 wRC+ with the Mariners in 2023. His expected weighted on-base average declined for the third straight year, down to .336, and his .741 OPS was his lowest since his 2016 debut year with the Astros. Hernández saw just 100 at-bats with Houston before he was dealt to the Blue Jays prior to the 2017 Trade Deadline.

Plate discipline has never really been Hernández’s forte, and that was especially true last season. His chase rate was a career-worst 35.2 percent. He recorded a career-low 5.6% walk rate against a 31.1 percent strikeout rate. His 211 K’s and 35.8% whiff rate were each near the top among qualified players.

Hernández often stung the ball whenever he did make contact, as evidenced by his stellar 49.4 percent hard-hit rate and 13.8 percent barrel rate. The 31-year-old punished four-seam fastballs to the tune of a .302 average, .659 slugging percentage and an extremely high 72.4% hard-hit rate.

He’s not an elite defender, but Hernández does provide value in the outfield thanks to his strong, accurate arm. His 12 assists were tied for the third most among all outfielders last season, and his 22 assists over the past two seasons trail only the Nationals’ Lane Thomas.

Hernández’s most productive full season to date came in 2021, when he socked 32 homers, drove in 116 runs and compiled a .296/.346/.524 slash line with Toronto.

“This lineup is going to be a lot better because I have players like Mookie, Freeman, Ohtani and Muncy,” Hernández said. “And all those guys, I can learn from them.”