On the surface, it was a swap of utility infielders — but it was really much more than that.
The Philadelphia Phillies finally made sense with a roster move on Tuesday morning, replacing Jayson Nix with Cesar Hernandez. The organization did it as much for its future as its present because Hernandez will only play the same utility role as Nix, but could easily work his way into a much larger role down the line. Nix was never more than a veteran stopgap, and the Phillies have had too many of those over the last three years.
If the Phillies want to ease their way into a more productive future, they have to get away from the veteran stopgaps and give way to promising newcomers.
Hernandez certainly qualifies as a promising newcomer, and whenever Chase Utley decides to hang up the spikes, he is the heir apparent at second base. With phenom shortstop J.P. Crawford apparently two years away in class-A, Utley and current shortstop Jimmy Rollins will continue to hold down the double play combination for the next couple of years. Hernandez and Crawford can help make that transition seamless when they finally nail down starting roles.
Hernandez, called up from double-A Reading, can play shortstop and third base as well as second base. Last year, he added center field to his repertoire, so that kind of versatility is an immediate upgrade over Nix. Plus, he’s a better hitter than Nix. Through 100 at-bats at Reading this year, Hernandez hit .340 with a .409 OBP and added three homers and 14 RBIs.
The Phillies could use that kind of production now and especially in the future as they transition away from a veteran corps.