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Braves Potential Free Agent Target: Enrique Hernandez

World Series - Los Angeles Dodgers v Tampa Bay Rays - Game Four Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

We’re taking a look at some players that could be targets for the Atlanta Braves in free agency, as the market seems to be finally starting to move. This series ranges from some of the biggest names on the market, like George Springer, Marcell Ozuna, and Michael Brantley, to some of the smaller depth pieces like Jonathan Villar and today’s subject, Enrique Hernandez.

Who is he?

Enrique Hernandez is a 29-year old utility player who has played for the Dodgers for most of his career to this point. His primary position is second base, but he has played at least a few innings at every infield and outfield position in recent seasons. The metrics don’t seem to love him on defense in general over the last two seasons, but his incredible versatility is not without merit.

Offensively he has generally been below average throughout his career, with the distinct exception of the 2018 season, in which he produced an impressive 118 wRC+ over 462 plate appearances. The Statcast metrics indicate that 2018 was indeed a career year for Hernandez, but also that he got lucky to some extent in his production. Outside of that 2018 season, he has generally been in the 80-95 wRC+ range since 2017.

In 2020 he was about on par with his career, playing all over the field on defense, and posting an 83 wRC+. His last full season in 2019 was nearly the same as 2020, but with a slightly better wRC+ of 88.

2020 World Series Game 3: Los Angeles Dodgers v. Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Kelly Gavin/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Should the Braves sign him?

Honestly, I don’t have a strong opinion on this. If Atlanta could sign him for a cheap price (probably no more than $4 million), then he could be a useful versatile bench piece that isn’t terrible on offense. He should not be seen as a starter, and he isn’t going to be a difference-maker, but his versatility has value.

Fangraphs’ projection systems project Hernandez to produce around 1.0 WAR over 350 plate appearances, and they are more optimistic on his offensive production than I am. Hernandez is not a high impact player. He would make the most sense if there is not DH in the National League, but even then, he isn’t going to move the needle a ton. He’s a nice versatile bench piece to have, no more, no less.

With all of that being said, the bench depth has been sub-optimal for Atlanta in recent years, particularly when the club has to deal with some injuries. Having more depth is never a bad thing. Hernandez is a player who would be useful to have on the roster in a vacuum, but as with all free agents (and trades, for that matter), it all depends on the price. The issue of price becomes especially sticky this offseason, after lots of revenue was lost due to the pandemic. Hernandez should not be signed at the expense of adding a legitimate impact player, but if there is money leftover and he is willing to sign cheap, he would be a nice addition.

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