The Nationals have agreed to a deal with Cuban outfielder Yadiel Hernandez, as Jorge Ebro of el Nuevo Herald reports. He’ll receive a $200K bonus, with Ben Badler of Baseball America adding that it comes on a minor league deal.
Hernandez, 29, has been free to sign since April, but failed to hook on with an organization until the minor league season already ended. As a result, he’ll have to wait for his first chance at competitive, regular season action until next year, though presumably he’ll be able to participate in various fall and winter activities and leagues. Hernandez last played in a full-fledged game early last year.
It’s a bit surprising that Hernandez had to wait so long and was only able to secure such a meager bonus, but perhaps his showcases haven’t been convincing. Hernandez’s age is obviously a limiting factor on his value, but teams have promised tens of millions of dollars to even older players out of Cuba. But Badler suggests that he is good enough to warrant placement at Triple-A or even to battle for a major league roster spot out of camp.
Indeed, the numbers in Cuba have shown plenty of promise. In his last Serie Nacional campaign, Hernandez put up a robust .369/.509/.535 batting line with 7 home runs over 369 trips to the plate. There obviously isn’t much power in his game — he has never hit more than ten in a single season — but he also managed 77 walks against just 47 strikeouts in that span, which seemingly suggests that he will bring an advanced approach with him to D.C.
Hernandez is viewed as being capable of playing an average right or left field, but it doesn’t seem as if there’s much hope of him lining up in center — which is where the Nats could most benefit from a left-handed bat in 2017. Still, he’ll add to the organization’s depth options next season and beyond, and the meager bonus makes this an extremely low-risk signing.