CLEVELAND (AP) — The Indians couldn’t afford to keep Francisco Lindor — or let César Hernández go.
Weeks after dealing Lindor and starter Carlos Carrasco to the New York Mets and cutting $32 million from its payroll, Cleveland signed Hernández to a $5 million contract, one-year after the second baseman’s Gold Glove season with the club.
Hernández will return for a second season with the Indians, who signed him as a free agent to a $6.25 million, one-year contract late in 2019 after he spent seven seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies.
Hernández agreed earlier this week to the new deal, which includes a $6 million club option in 2022 with no buyout. The contract was finalized Friday after he completed medical tests.
The 30-year-old Hernández was an invaluable addition last season. He led the AL with 20 doubles and helped the Indians secure a wild-card berth. He batted .283 with three homers, 20 RBIs and 35 runs in 58 games of the pandemic-abbreviated season.
Defensively, he teamed with Lindor to give Cleveland one of baseball’s strongest middle infields. Now, the Indians will count on him to bring stability after Lindor’s departure, which has left a gaping hole on the left side.
Cleveland acquired middle infielders Amed Rosario and Andrés Giménez from the Mets in the Jan. 7 trade of Lindor, a four-time All-Star who was entering his final year under contract and had rejected numerous long-term offers from Cleveland.
Now that the switch-hitting Hernández is returning, it’s unclear what the team has in mind for Rosario or Giménez, both of whom can play shortstop.
Last season, Hernández became the first Indians second baseman to win a Gold Glove since Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar in 2001.
After sending Lindor to the Mets, Chris Antonetti, the team’s president of baseball operations, said the team would re-invest some of that money back into the roster and Hernández is a first step. The club is also in the market for an outfielder and reliever.
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