Ineligible Man Downfield: César Hernández re-signing should signal more to come

But will it?

The baseball team did something on Tuesday.

When the Cleveland Baseball Club re-signed second baseman César Hernández on Tuesday, it was a bit of a head-scratcher.

Not because Hernández is a bad player. Just because it seemed Cleveland had already acquired their 2021 middle infield in Amed Rosario and Andrés Giménez when they dealt Francisco Lindor to the New York Mets. Hernández was a free agent signing, already shocking in its own right, at a position that was not of need. That’s a confusing two-fer.

Hernández, a Gold Glove winner last year, was technically a better hitter than Lindor last season, winning the wRC+ battle, 110-102. Also, well, he won that Gold Glove, if that’s your thing — though Lindor’s five outs above average beat out Hernández’s four, and at a harder position.

Obviously, this is not a one-to-one comparison. Hernández’s return is not going to erase the loss of Lindor. The point is just that Cleveland actually signed a meaningful free agent.

Chris Antonetti said the team would reinvest some of the money retained from moving off of Lindor, and it started on Tuesday. The question now is just whether or not that was the end of the spending.

This is where the confusing roster-building might lend itself well to fans. The move, as it stands, should shift either Rosario to the outfield (where he has three major league innings) or Giménez to Columbus. Neither sounds particularly appealing, but one still has the potential to be exciting.

Moving Rosario to the outfield does make sense, given the organization’s apparent philosophy on shortstops. That is to say, take ‘em all, and they’ll fall where they may. Cleveland has a treasure trove of minor league shortstops, with the idea that each has the requisite athleticism to stick at some position, if not a premium one.

Sending Giménez — the centerpiece of Cleveland’s return for Lindor — to Triple-A in an effort to suppress his service time would be disappointing in a vacuum.

But this might signal that Cleveland intends to be closer to a competitive roster than we thought. If nothing else, the front office is shrewd, especially financially. They have had to make the most out of a tight budget, and have done so as well as any team in any market during their tenure.

The Hernández signing may only be confusing because it is the first dip into the free-agent pool. The hope would be that the front office is so sure they will reel in a free-agent outfielder, that they went ahead and brought Hernández back.

Joc Pederson and Eddie Rosario are more likely to take a multi-year deal somewhere, but knowledge of the market could prove key here. If teams are as financially ravaged as they claim, there should be even more short-term deals inked than normal.

Cleveland has plenty of playing time to offer to free-agent outfielders, and claim they have some money to throw around too. Brett Gardner, Ryan Braun, or Adam Duvall could all slot in for 148 games if healthy. Maybe it’s Tyler Naquin.

The Hernández signing just made the picture more cloudy, and if Cleveland wants to live up to their word, we’ll see it all more clearly soon enough. — Alex Hooper


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Who we are

Chris Manning: Site Manager at Fear the Sword, co-host of the Locked on Cavs podcast, words at places like Cleveland Magazine and Forbes. On Twitter @cwmwrites

Jordan Zirm: Social editor at @TheCheckdown. Formerly of ESPN Cleveland. Words at B/R, SB Nation and UPROXX. Host of The Rebuild podcast. On Twitter @clevezirm

Alex Hooper: Contributor at Fantasy Sports Insight. Former Cleveland Baseball Club beat writer for 92.3 the Fan (WKRK), and contributor at Sports Illustrated, Let’s Go Tribe, and the News-Herald. On Twitter @lexhooper.

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