The Rangers have set their Opening Day roster, announcing a series of transactions that includes the trade of infielder Yonny Hernandez to the Diamondbacks in exchange for minor league outfielder Jeferson Espinal. Arizona has designated right-hander Humberto Mejia for assignment in a corresponding roster move.
Texas also designated infielder Sherten Apostel for assignment and selected the contracts of veterans Matt Bush, Charlie Culberson and Greg Holland. Right-hander Garrett Richards, meanwhile, has been placed on the 10-day injured list due to a blister issue, while righty Jose Leclerc has been placed on the 60-day IL as he continues recovering from last March’s Tommy John surgery.
Hernandez, 24 next month, made his big league debut with Texas last year and batted .217/.315/.252 in 166 trips to the plate. His work in Triple-A, where he slashed .250/.424/.323 in 261 plate appearances, was far better. Hernandez walked at a gaudy 20.3% clip in Triple-A last season and has a penchant for drawing free passes and making contact, albeit rarely with any real power. He’s walked in more than 15% of his professional plate appearances and also possesses plenty of speed, evidenced by 23 steals in the minors and another 11 in the big leagues last season.
Hernandez has experience all over the infield and has all three minor league option years remaining, so he’ll give the D-backs some flexibility and versatility not only in 2022 but for the foreseeable future. He can be controlled for at least the next six seasons, and possibly more, depending on how much big league time he accrues while he has those options remaining.
Espinal, 19, batted a combined .259/.340/.357 between Rookie ball and Low-A last season, with the vast majority of his production coming at the lower of those two levels. Eric Longenhagen and Brendan Gawlowski wrote at FanGraphs back in January that Espinal has 70 speed on the 20-80 scale but a long swing and serious questions about his overall hitting profile. Espinal did swipe 16 bases in 19 tries last season, but he’ll have a ways to go before the Rangers can even hope to have him as a viable option in the outfield.
Apostel, 23, went 2-for-20 in his big league debut back in 2020 and didn’t appear in the Majors last season. He’s primarily a third baseman but has experience at first base as well. Apostel posted a lackluster .235/.321/.416 across three levels last season, topping out with a sub-par showing in Triple-A Round Rock. The Rangers will have a week to trade Apostel, place him on outright waivers or release him.
As for the D-backs, they’re in the same boat with regard to the 25-year-old Mejia. He’s tallied 32 1/3 big league innings but struggled to a 6.68 ERA in that time, and last year’s work in the minors was not decidedly more encouraging. In 103 2/3 frames between Double-A and Triple-A, Mejia pitched to a combined 5.12 ERA with a 22.1% strikeout rate and 8.2% walk rate. Another club in need of some pitching depth might take a look in a small trade or via waivers, but Mejia has not yet found too much success above A-ball.