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Dodgers sign Teoscar Hernández to 1-year contract, per reports

One year, $23.5 million for the outfielder

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Seattle Mariners v Texas Rangers Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

The Dodgers offseason splurge continues with the addition of outfielder Teoscar Hernández, who has agreed to terms on a one-year, $23.5 million contract with Los Angeles on Sunday night, per Jeff Passan at ESPN and several other reports.

Moises Fabian was first to report the deal was close.

Hernández was rated the 12th-best free agent at the start of the offseason by MLB Trade Rumors, ranked 20th at The Athletic, and 21st by FanGraphs. Contract projections for Hernández included four years, $80 million by both The Athletic and MLB Trade Rumors, and three years, $45 million at FanGraphs.

He made $14 million in 2023 in his final year of salary arbitration before reaching free agency at the end of the season. The Mariners did not extend a qualifying offer of one year, $20.325 million to Hernández, so the Dodgers won’t forfeit any draft picks for signing him like they did for Shohei Ohtani.

Hernández hit .258/.305/.435 with 26 home runs and a 105 wRC+ in 2023, and over the last three seasons averaged 28 home runs, 31 doubles, and a 121 wRC+. Last year he was in the 90th percentile in MLB in hard-hit rate (49.4 percent of his batted balls with at least a 95-mph exit velocity) and the 88th percentile in barrel rate (13.8 percent).

“If there’s one area, adding a right-handed bat that profiles really well against left-handed pitching, can hold their own against right,” Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said in an interview on MLB Network Radio on Sunday. “It’s something that is on our radar, whether that’s trade or free agent, it would be good to add somebody like that in the middle of our lineup.

“We’re going to be really left-handed. To be able to add that and break that up, and make opposing managers’ jobs that much harder, is something that is definitely front of mind for us.”

Hernández has punished left-handers throughout his career, to the tune of .275/.329/.557 and a 136 wRC+ in his career, and he’s put up at least a 118 wRC+ against southpaws in each of the last five seasons since becoming a regular in 2019.

Over the last three seasons, Hernández against lefties has hit .317/.349/.628 with 27 home runs in 387 plate appearances. His 164 wRC+ against southpaws since the start of 2021 ranks fifth in the majors with a minimum of 300 plate appearances. New teammate Mookie Betts is fifth with a 164 wRC+.

Hernández brings added thump to a Dodgers lineup, and increased production over what Los Angeles got last season out of left field. David Peralta made the bulk of the starts (97) in left field, and was effectively neutered at the plate after the All-Star break (.231/.259/.319, no home runs, 54 wRC+) by an elbow injury that required surgery in November.

Dodgers left-fielders in 2023 hit .250/.305/.417, finished 20th in the majors at the position in home runs (18) and wRC+ (96), and ranked between 17th and 21st in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and OPS (.722).

Teoscar Hernández platoon splits

Year wRC+ vs. L wRC+ vs. R
Year wRC+ vs. L wRC+ vs. R
2018 99 110
2019 118 94
2020 145 141
2021 203 109
2022 176 120
2023 120 100
Career 136 110
Source: FanGraphs

Hernández also brings a lot of swing and miss, with his 211 strikeouts in 2023 tied for the ninth-most in a single season in major league history. Part of that is a product of the era, as Hernández didn’t even lead the league in strikeouts last season; both Kyle Schwarber (215 strikeouts) and Eugenio Suárez (214) had more. All three were above-average hitters in 2023 by wRC+.

That high strikeout total for Hernández is also a function of playing time. His 31.1-percent strikeout rate was lower than utility Chris Taylor (32.6 percent), who figured to get lots of playing time in left field before the signing of Hernández.

While other moves may still happen this offseason, the Dodgers position-player group looks fairly set. With Hernández, there are 10 players under contract, two more (Will Smith, Gavin Lux) eligible for salary arbitration, plus James Outman, who has just one year of service time but led the team in outfield starts last year and finished third in National League Rookie of the Year voting.

Dodgers position players on 40-man roster

  • Designated hitter (1): Shohei Ohtani (LHB)
  • Catchers (2): Will Smith, Austin Barnes
  • Infielders (5): Freddie Freeman (LHB), Mookie Betts, Gavin Lux (LHB), Max Muncy (LHB), Miguel Rojas
  • Outfielders (4): Teoscar Hernández, James Outman (LHB), Jason Heyward (LHB), Manuel Margot
  • Infielder/outfielder (1): Chris Taylor
  • Minors (5): Michael Busch (LHB), Miguel Vargas, Andy Pages, Hunter Feduccia (LHB), Diego Cartaya

To make the deal official, the Dodgers will need to make a corresponding transaction to make room on the 40-man roster.