If you could pick the worst place for a slugger to get traded to before a contract year, Seattle might be it. No disrespect to the Mariners — who won 88 games and narrowly missed a playoff spot in 2023 — but according to Statcast, T-Mobile Park has been the least-friendly park for hitters over the past three seasons.
Teoscar Hernández is Exhibit A of what getting traded from a league-average park in terms of hitter friendliness (Rogers Centre) to T-Mobile Park in a walk year can do to you.
Between 2019 and 2022 — Hernández’s final four seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays — he slashed .270/.326/.507 with an .833 OPS, winning Silver Slugger Awards in 2020 and 2021. With the pandemic-shortened 2020 season excluded, Hernández averaged 151 strikeouts over his last three full seasons in Toronto.
In what appears likely to be his lone season with the Mariners, Hernández did homer 26 times and drive in 93 runs, but the rest of his numbers dipped as he played his home games in the most pitcher-friendly park in the sport.
Hernández slashed .258/.305/.435 with a career-high 211 strikeouts, a mark that was third in the sport and feels like an outlier relative to what he did as a Blue Jay.
Hernández seems like an obvious candidate for positive regression in 2024, when you consider that he posted an .830 OPS in 81 road games this past season, as opposed to a .643 OPS in 79 home games. That is, assuming he joins a new (or old) team.
In our free-agent predictions, we projected a three-year, $60 million deal for Hernández, which would include a $20 million club option for 2027. Here are five candidates to give the former All-Star such a pact.
Toronto Blue Jays
While bringing Hernández back would give Toronto an especially right-handed lineup, it would also give them a ton of guys that mash.
From Hernández’s perspective, there’s no reason not to want to go back to Toronto — he has an OPS north of .800 in his career at Rogers Centre, and would be signing with a team that has made the playoffs in three of the last four seasons.
The Blue Jays showed interest in reacquiring Hernández before the trade deadline this past summer, but the Mariners elected to hold onto him. With George Springer in right field, Hernández would have to shift to left field on a more consistent basis, while also getting at-bats at DH for John Schneider’s club.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Jorge Castillo of The Los Angeles Times reported in early November that the Dodgers had shown early interest in Hernández on the free-agent market.
Trying to woo two-time AL MVP Shohei Ohtani and rebuild their pitching staff are the top priorities for president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman this offseason.
But Hernández makes sense as a corner outfield addition — and one who could get DH at-bats if the Dodgers don’t lure Ohtani — that could provide additional pop in a lineup that already includes future Hall of Famers Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman.
The Guardians may prefer to add a 1B/DH type on a shorter-term deal, such as former Philadelphia Phillies slugger Rhys Hoskins.
But there’s no doubt that if Cleveland hopes to be competitive in their first year under new manager Stephen Vogt, they need to add some more thump.
Hernández could usurp Ramón Laureano as the team’s primary right fielder, or get a substantial chunk of at-bats at DH with Josh Naylor playing first base for Cleveland.
The Fish snuck into the postseason with 84 wins this past season, but could very well lose former World Series MVP Jorge Soler, who opted out of the final year of his deal with the team after hitting 36 home runs this past season.
Former general manager Kim Ng did acquire both Josh Bell and Jake Burger last summer, so the Marlins won’t be without power threats if Soler departs. But Avisaíl García — he of the meager .576 OPS across 135 games in parts of two seasons with the Marlins — is currently penciled in as their DH. New president of baseball operations Peter Bendix might prefer a shorter commitment than what it will likely take to land Hernández. But there’s no doubt that Hernández would be a good fit to occupy the DH/corner outfielder role that Soler filled in Skip Schmuaker’s lineup last season.
Los Angeles Angels
Good luck trying to figure out how the offseason will play out for the Angels. It feels like they are going to lose Ohtani, a franchise icon, in free agency.
With that said, the Angels will still presumably make a serious effort to retain Ohtani. And while there’s been speculation about three-time AL MVP Mike Trout asking for a trade this offseason, such a scenario has yet to materialize.
However delusional it may be, is it possible Ohtani leaves but the Angels try to put a contending team around a 32-year-old Trout next season? Sure.
There’s, of course, no way to replace even what Ohtani brings at the plate, as he led the junior circuit in home runs (44), on-base percentage (.412), slugging percentage (.654), OPS (1.066), OPS+ (184) and total bases (325) this past season. But if general manager Perry Minasian is left to pick up the pieces this offseason post Ohtani, signing Hernández to DH and play corner outfield might make some sense.