June 1 is a popular date for opt-outs on minor league contracts, as five other players triggered similar clauses earlier today. Once the opt-out is triggered, the club usually has a window of 48 or 72 hours to either add the player to their 40-man roster or else lose them to free agency. At this point, it’s not publicly known how long the Mariners will have to decide about Hernández or which way they would be leaning. First baseman Mike Ford triggered an opt-out earlier today but it was reported shortly thereafter that the M’s will be adding him to their roster tomorrow.
Hernández, 33, is a veteran who first debuted with the Phillies in 2013. He spent many years in Philadelphia as a solid everyday player at second base, providing both offense and defense roughly around league average. From 2015 to 2019, he got into 732 games over those five seasons. He only hit 45 home runs but walked at a solid 10.1% rate and only struck out in 18.5% of his trips to the plate. His .278/.355/.388 batting line amounted to a wRC+ of 100, indicating he was exactly league average in that time, while he also swiped 79 bags in that stretch.
Since then, things have been a little less consistent for him. He had an unusual power spike in 2021, hitting 21 home runs but his batting average fell to .232. Last year, his power vanished as he hit only one homer all year and his average ticked up but only to .248. He had to settle for a minor league deal with the Tigers this winter but didn’t make the club out of spring and was released, perhaps due to an automatic opt-out he had as an Article XX(B) free agent.
He landed with the Mariners on another minor league deal and has been with Triple-A Tacoma for the past two months. He hasn’t hit any home runs in his 43 games with the Rainiers but he did walk in 22.6% of his plate appearances. He hit .272/.436/.336 overall for a 107 wRC+ and stole seven bases. He played mostly second base but also saw some time at third, shortstop and center field.
The Mariners are pretty set at most of those positions, with Julio Rodríguez in center, Eugenio Suárez at third and J.P. Crawford at short. But Hernández’s primary position of second base is a little less secure. Kolten Wong was the everyday option coming into the season but he’s hitting a paltry .157/.252/.185 this year. He’s gradually been ceding playing time to José Caballero, who has a solid .240/.366/.360 line so far, but in just 93 plate appearances in his first 31 major league games.
Perhaps those factors could cause the M’s to consider adding Hernández to their roster. If not, he’ll head out to the open market and see what other opportunities might be available to him.