The Indians announced this morning that they’ve signed veteran right-hander David Hernandez, utilityman Jake Elmore and catcher Steven Baron to minor league contracts. Hernandez and Elmore will report to Summer Camp in Cleveland, while Baron will head to the team’s alternate training site in Eastlake, at their Class-A affiliate’s facility. All three have been added to Cleveland’s player pool, bringing their total to 58 players.
Hernandez, 35, wrapped up a two-year deal with the Reds in 2019. He was brilliant in the first season of that contract, pitching to a pristine 2.53 ERA and 3.38 FIP with 9.1 K/9 against 2.4 BB/9 over the course of 64 innings. Unfortunately, the second season of the deal was as ugly as the first was impressive; in 42 2/3 innings, Hernandez was clobbered for an 8.02 ERA.
That’s an alarming number, of course, but it should be pointed out that Hernandez was plagued by a sky-high .393 average on balls in play — more than 100 points higher than his career mark. As was the case with many pitchers during last year’s juiced-ball campaign, Hernandez also saw his home-run rate soar (0.76 HR/9 in 2017-18; 1.48 HR/9 in 2019). He’d been in the original Spring Training with the Nationals but was cut loose.
The 32-year-old Elmore has appeared in 217 games and logged 527 plate appearances at the MLB level. Elmore is just a .215/.292/.275 hitter in that time, but he’s demonstrated substantial versatility; in 2013, the Astros used him at every position on the diamond — including catcher and pitcher. Elmore has at least 106 innings at all four infield spots, 234 innings in the outfield (including 14 in center) and has also caught 4 1/3 innings and pitched two frames (one run allowed) in the Majors.
Baron, 29, was the No. 33 overall pick by the Mariners back in 2009 but has never gotten much of a look in the big leagues. In 26 plate appearances, he’s batted .115/.115/.154. Baron is a veteran of 11 minor league seasons, though, and is widely regarded as a strong defensive backstop. He routinely posts strong framing marks in the minors and boasts a huge 39 percent caught-stealing rate in those 11 seasons. In 678 Triple-A plate appearances, Baron is a .237/.299/.313 hitter.