Teoscar Hernández says there's no better place to play than with LA Dodgers

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Teoscar Hernández initially was seeking a multiyear deal in a slow free-agent market, but the chance to join a powerful Los Angeles Dodgers lineup convinced the outfielder to sign a $23.5 million, one-year contract.

“I wanted to go to a team that can compete and be in the playoffs, and a good team and good organization that makes me a better player,” he said Tuesday on a video call with media.

An All-Star in 2021, the 31-year-old Hernández hit .258 with 26 homers and 93 RBIs last year in his only season with Seattle, which acquired him from Toronto in a November 2022 trade. He had 12 assists, tied for third in the major leagues among outfielders.

“Everything comes down to confidence at home plate. That was one of the hardest things for me, getting comfortable,” he said. “If you watch my numbers, there’s a big gap playing on the road. It was more getting confidence at home and just trying to do the same thing I do on the road.”

Hernández hit .296 with 32 homers and 112 RBIs in 2021 with Toronto, making his only All-Star roster. He has a .261 career average with 159 homers, 473 RBIs and 58 outfield assists for the Astros (2016-17), Blue Jays (2017-22) and Mariners.

“We feel like the power and the ability to really handle left-handed pitching is an exceptional fit for how our lineup is constructed,” general manager Brandon Gomes said, adding that Hernández will be an everyday player.

Right fielder Jason Heyward was brought back on a one-year deal and he'll face right-handed pitching. Newly acquired Manuel Margot could platoon with Heyward, since Mookie Betts will move from the outfield to play second base on a regular basis next season.

Los Angeles has been baseball’s top spender this offseason, committing $1,235,687,500 to two-way star Shohei Ohtani, pitchers Yoshinobu Yamamoto and Tyler Glasnow, and Hernández.

Ohtani’s record $700 million, 10-year contract includes $680 million in deferred payments. The Dodgers owe deferred payments to Ohtani, Betts, Freddie Freeman and Hernández totaling $865.5 million from 2033-44.

“When you're going to an organization (where) it doesn’t matter how much they have to spend to make their team and their organization better, that’s where you want to go,” Hernández said.

Hernández agreed to defer $8.5 million that will be paid in 10 equal installments each July 1 from 2030-39.

“That was one of the options they gave me and I decided to take it like that,” he said.

Hernández also has provisions for large bonuses. He would get $3 million if he finishes among the top five in MVP voting, $2 million if he is sixth through 10th and $500,000 if he is 11th through 15th. He would get $1 million for his third Silver Slugger Award.

Hernández joins a powerful batting order projected to include Betts, Ohtani, Freeman, Will Smith, Max Muncy and Heyward.

Gomes sees Hernández's walk rate increasing when he's surrounded by the team's other power hitters.

“What was very intriguing with Teo is that he crushes velocity, he crushes velocity up in the zone,” Gomes said. “But he's not susceptible to any one pitch type, he can hit all pitch types. When he's getting those pitches in the zone, he can do real damage. When he can force pitchers into the zone a bit more, that's when he’s really going to be at his best and be able to really attack the baseball.”

Hernández said he's eager to join the Dodgers and try to help them win another World Series.

“They’re hungry for winning and I’m hungry for winning," he said. "I don’t think there’s a better place than the Dodgers right now.”



Beth Harris, The Associated Press