Teoscar Hernández, Dodgers reach 1-year, $23.5M deal

Outfielder Teoscar Hernández and the Los Angeles Dodgers agreed on a one-year, $23.5 million contract, sources told ESPN on Sunday, adding another All-Star bat to the lineup of a team that’s already the World Series favorite.

Hernández, 31, entered an offseason with few impact veteran bats as among the best. But with a crowded outfield market and others available on the trade market, he opted for a big-money, one-year deal and the chance to join Shohei Ohtani, Yoshinobu Yamamoto and Tyler Glasnow as part of the supercharged Dodgers.

The deal, which is pending a physical, includes deferrals, though not nearly to the level of Ohtani putting off $680 million of his 10-year, $700 million contract for 10 years. Of Hernández’s $23.5 million salary, $8.5 million will be deferred, to be paid off between 2030 and 2039, according to sources.

The Dodgers are betting heavily on Hernández, an All-Star in 2021. Because his signing will push their payroll to around $270 million, they will jump well into the second luxury-tax bracket and pay a 12.5% surcharge on top of the 50% they need to pay for spending over the $237 million threshold. Factoring in additional money spent because of the luxury tax, Hernández’s one year will cost the Dodgers more than $32 million.

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They forged ahead nonetheless, defeating out the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Angels to secure one of the most consistent power hitters in baseball. Since his first year getting full-time at-bats with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2018, Hernández’s 147 home runs and 442 RBIs rank 23rd in baseball. While his .258/.305/.435 line with the Seattle Mariners last season was below his career average, Hernández hit 26 home runs and drove in 93.

That power also comes with increasingly high strikeout rates:

He fanned 211 times in 2023, the second-highest total in the majors, with his 31.1% strikeout rate ranking fifth worst among qualified regulars.

Hernández still crushed left-handed pitching, slugging .511. He is expected to play close to full time and will provide a perfect complement to an outfield that already includes left-handed hitters James Outman and Jason Heyward. The Dodgers’ attempts to add a closer-to-sure thing to their lineup flexibility was a priority this winter.

Hitting in the middle of an order with Ohtani, Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman, Will Smith and other high-end bats is a dream opportunity for any hitter. And if Hernández excels, as J.D. Martinez did as designated hitter in his 2023 stint in which Los Angeles went 100-62, the Dodgers still can tender him a qualifying offer. The Mariners declined to do so, opting to let Hernández hit free agency unencumbered rather than chance that he would accept the one-year, $20.325 million qualifying offer.

Los Angeles hopes he gets a jolt escaping Seattle’s T-Mobile Park, which tilts heavily in favor of pitchers. Hernández hit .295/.344/.486 on the road, compared with just .217/.263/.380 at home, and his expected numbers via Statcast metrics were better than his actual numbers (his expected slugging percentage was .476, for example).

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