The Red Sox have still been mostly quiet this winter, making just a couple of additions via free agency to this point with both coming on the margins as they have signed Hunter Renfroe and Matt Andriese. Bigger splashes will certainly come at some point, but they will also make more mid-tier moves as well given the number of holes they have on their roster. And since they have so many of those holes, it has always made sense that they would at least target some players who can play all over the diamond. This past weekend, there was a report of their interest in perhaps the best multi-positional option on the board this winter in former Dodgers utility man Kiké Hernández. According to Chris Cotillo of Masslive, they are indeed pursuing a deal with the reigning champion.
Hernández is a former sixth round pick by the Astros who has spent the bulk of his career to this point with the Dodgers. Now getting set to enter his age-29 season, the utility man joined Los Angeles in 2015 and has been bouncing around their lineup and defensive alignment ever since. This past season was a bit of a rough one as he finished the year with an 83 wRC+ (meaning he was 17 percent worse than league-average), only a slight downgrade from his 88 mark the year before. In fact, he has been worse than average by wRC+ in four of his last five seasons.
While that is not a great sign for his future and certainly prevents him from being considered a marquee free agent, he is also a player that could be a huge situational boon for Boston. Hernández, as I’ve alluded to, can do a little bit of everything in the field. Excluding catcher and pitcher, he has played every position on the diamond, and even constraining ourselves to just 2020 he played everywhere except third base. Most often he fills in in the outfield as well as at second base, which just so happens to be exactly where the Red Sox need the most help. Hernández would be able to come in and provide depth at both spots while also not precluding them from adding something else at either or both of those positions.
As for his offense, he is at his best if he can be limited to a part-time role in the lineup. Given the defensive versatility there is value to be had even without his bat, but the splits have been pretty unfavorable for Hernández over his career. Although he has been very good against lefties with a career 120 wRC+ when a southpaw is on the mound, the right-handed hitter has struggled to the tune of an 82 wRC+ against same-handed pitchers over his career. He wouldn’t need to be a straight platoon player — again, the defensive versatility is the biggest driver of value here — but ideally they’d be able to get a disproportionate number of his at bats against lefties. Given the current makeup of the outfield with Andrew Benintendi and Alex Verdugo, as well as a potential reunion with Jackie Bradley Jr., having another lefty-killer along with Renfroe who can fill in out there would be a big addition.
Of course, as all of these things do this ultimately comes down to his price on the free agent market. For Hernández, the projection from FanGraphs readers is two years and $12 million total. If that is indeed the general area where the market current lies for the former Dodger, I’d be totally fine with that for the Red Sox given his ability to cover multiple holes, even despite some of the warning signs. As was the case with Renfroe and Andriese, the effectiveness of this potential move would really rely on what else they added and what role he was forced into. But for now, it’s just a rumor to monitor.