The Stars Have Realigned for Teoscar Hernández With the Dodgers

Teoscar Hernández looks like his old slugging self again, hitting behind a surplus of superstars in the Los Angeles Dodgers lineup.

Shohei Ohtani #17 of the Los Angeles Dodgers talks with Teoscar Hernández #37 during workouts at Camelback Ranch.
GLENDALE, ARIZONA - FEBRUARY 14: Shohei Ohtani #17 of the Los Angeles Dodgers talks with Teoscar Hernández #37 during workouts at Camelback Ranch on February 14, 2024 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)

It’s one of those things that maybe flew under the radar during a historically active offseason for the Los Angeles Dodgers, but once the team reported to spring training, the rest of the league had to be thinking: How did we let them get that guy too?

The Dodgers signed two-time AL MVP Shohei Ohtani and coveted Japanese righty Yoshinobu Yamamoto. They acquired Tyler Glasnow in a trade with the Tampa Bay Rays. Still, the shrewdest move president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman made this offseason may have been signing slugger Teoscar Hernández to a one-year, $23.5 million deal.

It was equally as impressive for Hernández — coming off a relative down year with the Seattle Mariners — to take a one-year deal, rather than waiting for a three or four-year offer to his liking, which may never have come.

Hernández had the misfortune of getting traded to the Mariners prior to his contract year. No disrespect to the city of Seattle or the Mariners franchise, but T-Mobile Park is notoriously unfriendly for hitters. Between 2021 and 2023, Statcast park factors say that T-Mobile Park was the worst MLB stadium at which to hit.

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In what proved to be his lone year with the Mariners, Hernández set a new career-high with 211 strikeouts, 48 more than his previous high of 163. His .305 on-base percentage was his lowest mark since he became a full-time starter in 2018. His .741 OPS was 30 points lower than his previous career-low over a full season, which came in 2018.

Hernández did play in a career-high 160 games, and still homered 26 times and drove in 93 runs, but it was a disappointing walk year.

Fortunately for Hernández, it was pretty easy to recognize his dip in production came, at least partially, because he played his home games at T-Mobile Park. In 323 home plate appearances a season ago, Hernández slashed .217/.263/.380 with a .643 OPS. In 355 road plate appearances, he slashed .295/.344/.486 with an .830 OPS.

However, if the baseball gods dealt Hernández some bad karma last season, they more than made up for it this year. No, Hernández didn’t get the long-term contract he may have hoped for prior to his down year in 2023. But, he got $23.5 million for one season. Moreover, if he keeps hitting like he has been, he will likely receive multi-year interest next winter.

Thus far, Hernández has hit cleanup twice for Dave Roberts, with a couple of starts out of the No. 5 hole and the bulk of his at-bats coming out of the six spot.

Before the season, I predicted Hernández would lead baseball in RBIs this year. When I made that prediction, I envisioned him hitting fourth, directly behind Mookie Betts, Ohtani and Freddie Freeman. But, if he’s hitting fifth or sixth, any of that trio could still be on base, as could Will Smith — arguably the best catcher in the National League — or Max Muncy.

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It’s the type of lineup a hitter dreams about batting in the middle of.

So far, Hernández has made the best of it. He ranks second in baseball with 14 RBIs. He’s homered four times and has an .892 OPS.

In addition to the guaranteed $23.5 million on his deal, Hernández’s contract with the Dodgers also includes additional financial incentives if he factors into the NL MVP race ($3 million for top five, $2 million for 6-10) and $1 million if he wins a Silver Slugger. There’s an outside chance he could finish in the 6-10 range in NL MVP voting, but the Silver Slugger Award is much more attainable.

Karma has come back around, and Hernández has gone from playing his home games in the least hitter-friendly stadium in baseball to being a part of one of the scarier lineups in modern MLB history.

He may only be with the Dodgers for a season, but while he’s there, he’ll make a ton of money, compete for a World Series, and perhaps have a career year. There are worse arrangements.