The Red Sox continued their efforts to build depth and versatility for the upcoming season, nearing agreement on a multi-year deal with former Dodgers jack-of-many-trades Kiké Hernández.
Mark Feinsand of MLB.com reported the deal will be for two years and $14 million. It is the first Red Sox multi-year deal under current chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, and the $14 million commitment is likewise the largest since Bloom joined the organization in October 2019.
Hernández, 29, primarily has played second base in his career — giving the Sox an option at a position where they had worst-in-baseball production in 2020 (.220 average, .273 on-base, .313 slugging mark, for a .586 OPS). But he’s also played every defensive position except catcher, frequently bouncing between second and all three outfield positions for the Dodgers in recent years.
Hernández is coming off a down season in 2020, having hit .230/.270/.410 with five homers in 48 games, though he did show improvement in September after starting slowly following the mid-summer season reboot. His approach likewise appeared to regress, as he walked in a career-low 4.1 percent of plate appearances, down from a 9.2 percent career rate.
Evaluators are divided on whether the decline in walk rate represented a troubling devolution in his approach or a strange, compressed season in which Hernández was pressing (perhaps in anticipation of his foray into free agency) and experimenting with some swing changes. Regardless, his offense is seen as streaky — though given that most of his hard contact comes down the left field line, Fenway Park could help to soften some of his inconsistency.
Throughout his career, Hernández has been able to combine offensive impact against lefthanded pitchers (a career .263/.345/.474 mark) with strong defense, skills that made him a valued contributor to the Dodgers. Even so, his struggles against righthanded pitchers (.222/.286/.386) often prevented him from gaining an everyday opportunity.
The addition of Hernández would give the Red Sox depth and permit them flexibility. He would give the Sox insurance in center field and second base — positioning them to add at one or both of those positions, or to feature a lineup with Hernández in center and Christian Arroyo at second.
It’s possible, for instance, that the Sox could feature Hernández at second against righties and shift him to center while having Arroyo play second against lefties. A chorus of evaluators suggested that Hernández is a valuable roster addition thanks to what they described as tremendous athleticism and strong defense at several positions.
The Sox have reached deals with three other free agents this winter: outfielder Hunter Renfroe, starting pitcher Martín Pérez, and swingman Matt Andriese. The team continues to explore additional upgrades, particularly to its starting pitching.
Toward that end, a major league source confirmed a report by Jon Morosi of MLB Network that the Red Sox had active discussions with free-agent righthander Garrett Richards on Friday. After conversations limited to general expressions of interest for much of the offseason, the two sides had more substantive back-and-forth exchanges.
Richards, 32, went 2-2 with a 4.03 ERA along with 8.1 strikeouts and 3.0 walks per nine innings for the Padres in 51⅓ innings, his first full season back from Tommy John surgery in mid-2018. Richards had a 4.27 ERA in 10 starts, while allowing one run in five innings and striking out five in four relief appearances.
The veteran proved overpowering against righties (.189/.252/.337 with a 23.3 percent strikeout rate) but struggled against lefties (.296/.364/.490, 20.0 percent strikeout rate). Along with other remaining free agents Jake Odorizzi and Masahiro Tanaka, Richards represents an option to bolster the middle of a rotation that currently seems likely to open the year with Eduardo Rodríguez, Nate Eovaldi, and Pérez, with Tanner Houck and Nick Pivetta considerations for the back.