On Thursday, the Chicago White Sox made a deal with their division rivals, the Cleveland Indians, which netted them second baseman Cesar Hernandez in exchange for a prospect, left-hander Konnor Pilkington.
The White Sox, who comfortably sit atop the AL Central division and just got one of their stars back in Eloy Jimenez (with Luis Robert’s return around the corner, too), needed an infielder, specifically a second baseman, since Nick Madrigal suffered a long-term hamstring injury.
Hernandez was easier to acquire when it came to prospect capital.
Additionally, he is also very affordable: he is earning $5 million this year, and has a $6 million club option for next year as well.
However, the fact that he was cheap to acquire doesn’t mean Hernandez is bad.
This season, the infielder is slashing .231/.307/.431 with 18 home runs.
The 18 home runs are already Hernandez’s highest total in a season in his MLB tenure, and we still have two months to go.
It’s actually quite evident that Hernandez decided to sell out for power this season.
Grading The Deal For Chicago
Chicago should get a high grade for this deal: Hernandez is not a difference-maker, but is a steady piece that has already accumulated 1.8 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) this season, according to Fangraphs, and plays good defense at an up-the-middle position.
Offensively, he is trying to hit for more power, and has succeeded for the most part.
His .199 isolated power is also the best mark of his career.
However, his batting average and on-base skills have suffered as a result.
A career .272/.347/.388 hitter with a 100 wRC+ (weighted Runs Created Plus), Hernandez is at .231/.307/.431 with a 100 wRC+ this season.
The wRC+ stat recognizes the “average” threshold at 100, so Hernandez is, by definition, an average batter, and the eye test doesn’t lie in this case.
He is still an average hitter, he is just contributing in a different way.
Between mid April 2019 and 2020, Cesar Hernandez hit 28% fly balls, 2.9% Barrels, 31% Hard Hit. He was average overall (100 wRC+).
This year, he’s hitting 36% fly balls, 9.4% Barrels, 36% Hard Hit! Nice! He’s been… average overall at the plate (100 wRC+).
— Eno Sarris (@enosarris) July 29, 2021
For the White Sox, though, an average hitter with good defense at a premium position, and great baserunning skills, makes for a pretty good addition.
Overall, the White Sox get a B+.
Grading The Deal For Cleveland
For Cleveland, this has all the looks of a salary dump.
Just like they did with Eddie Rosario, they traded Hernandez mostly to get rid of his salary, even though it isn’t that high.
With Hernandez, however, at least they got a prospect in return.
LHP Konnor Pilkington is going from Chicago to Cleveland in the César Hernández trade, per sources. @JeffPassan 1st reported about Hernández going to Chicago.
— Daniel Álvarez Montes (@DanielAlvarezEE) July 29, 2021
It’s not an elite prospect by any means, but a prospect nevertheless.
Pilkington wasn’t a top 40 prospect in the White Sox’s system by most publications, but is a left-hander with very good size (6-foot-3, 230 pounds.)
His stuff isn’t elite, but he is hard to hit.
Reports say he has some command issues that Cleveland and his top-notch player development department will sure help him fix.
They do appear to have something in Pilkington, but they could have gotten more.
For Cleveland, the deal results in a C grade.