The Crimson Sox have gotten a bounce on their offseason enterprise, reportedly agreeing to a one-year contract extension with utilityman Enrique Hernández. The deal ensures the Wasserman shopper $10MM for the 2023 season.
Hernández had been slated to hit free company this winter, however he’ll bypass that chance for a 3rd season in Boston. The longtime Dodger first hit the open market over the 2020-21 offseason, when he signed a two-year, $14MM pact with Boston. It was a surprisingly robust multi-year association on the heels of back-to-back down seasons on the plate, but it surely rapidly regarded like a coup for chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and his entrance workplace.
The Puerto Rico native posted arguably his finest season so far in 2021. He tallied a personal-high 585 plate appearances and related on 20 dwelling runs and 19 doubles with an total .250/.337/.449 slash line. Hernández walked at a strong 10.4% clip, solely struck out 18.8% of the time and made a powerful affect from an influence perspective. Altogether, by measure of wRC+, his offensive manufacturing checked in 9 share factors above league common.
Hernández paired that well-rounded hitting output along with his sometimes robust protection. As he has all through his profession, Hernández proved prepared to bounce between the infield and outfield. He spent the majority of his time in heart subject and at second base, with public defensive metrics inserting him among the many league’s finest on the former place. On the heels of that robust first season in Fenway, Hernández deservedly earned Boston’s Opening Day nod in heart subject this 12 months.
The 31-year-old hasn’t managed to copy final 12 months’s manufacturing although. He slumped to a .193/.266/.325 line via the season’s first month and has by no means absolutely gotten again on monitor. Whereas Hernández has improved upon that notably tepid early-season output, he’s posted below-average numbers on the dish in every month when wholesome. He additionally misplaced a bit greater than eight weeks to a strained proper hip flexor that sidelined him from early June till the center of August. Altogether, Hernández has gotten into 68 video games and tallied 304 plate appearances, compiling a meager .219/.283/.354 displaying with simply six longballs.
A few of Hernández’s underlying numbers have correspondingly gone within the incorrect course. His walks are all the way down to a below-average 7.9% clip, whereas his charge of exhausting contact has plummeted from 43.2% to 34.4%. Maybe the Crimson Sox are prepared to attribute the offensive downturn, not less than partially, to the hip challenge via which Hernández was battling. Disappointing as his 2022 work on the plate has been, he has continued to charge as an above-average defensive heart fielder. If he can recapture one thing resembling league common offense, Hernández would nonetheless be a beneficial contributor — both because the common heart fielder or in a utility function that sees him bounce extra ceaselessly between the filth and the grass.
Presumably, Hernández will get the primary crack at an on a regular basis outfield function once more. The Sox don’t have a lot in the way in which of established in-house alternate options, with former prime prospect Jarren Duran struggling to a .218/.269/.355 line with bottom-tier defensive metrics via his first 90 large league video games. For a Crimson Sox workforce that’s trying to instantly return to rivalry after a disappointing 2022 marketing campaign, penciling the 26-year-old into the Opening Day lineup might be too dangerous. If Duran performs his approach into an on a regular basis job, Hernández may slide right into a superutility capability.
One may argue Boston ought to’ve aimed increased than both Hernández or Duran and sought an exterior improve in heart subject. Re-signing Hernández doesn’t expressly rule that out, though it’d appear to alleviate the stress on Bloom and his workers to dip into very skinny waters on the place. Aaron Choose, after all, is the highest free agent who’ll be obtainable however seems prone to command a wage approaching or exceeding $300MM. Other than Choose, Brandon Nimmo is the one clear above-average heart fielder who’s slated to hit the open market. The Rays are sure to purchase out defensive stalwart Kevin Kiermaier (with whom Bloom is lots acquainted from his time within the Tampa Bay entrance workplace), however Kiermaier’s coming off a shaky offensive season of his personal and just lately underwent season-ending hip surgical procedure.
The commerce market might not supply many options both. Groups are positive to attempt to pry Bryan Reynolds away from the Pirates but once more, however no workforce has been profitable (or seemingly even come shut) to doing so. The A’s will in all probability take heed to provides on Ramón Laureano, however he’s arguably a cleaner slot in a nook outfield spot than up the center. Different commerce candidates embrace the Royals Michael A. Taylor and the Cubs Rafael Ortega, but it surely’s not clear both is an improve over Hernández.
It’s the beginning of what figures to be a busy offseason in Boston. The Crimson Sox are dealing with the potential free agent departures of Xander Bogaerts, J.D. Martinez, Nathan Eovaldi, Michael Wacha and Wealthy Hill, amongst others. Assuming Bogaerts opts out of the remaining three years on his present contract, the Sox are slated to enter the offseason with a bit greater than $70MM in assured commitments for 2023 after accounting for Hernández’s deal. Rafael Devers headlines an arbitration class that’s prone to push that tally north of $90MM.
That also leaves loads of room for a membership that opened this 12 months with a payroll above $206MM, per Cot’s Baseball Contracts. They’ll must overhaul the pitching workers, handle a center infield place if Bogaerts departs, and maybe search for upgrades at catcher and in a nook outfield spot. There’s lots of work to be executed this offseason. Immediately’s settlement to maintain round a well-recognized participant whom the group clearly expects to proper the ship marks the primary of many key choices on the horizon.
Jeff Passan of ESPN first reported Hernández and the Crimson Sox have been in settlement on a one-year, $10MM extension.
Picture courtesy of USA Immediately Sports activities.