Enrique Hernandez is perfect for the Boston Red Sox.
Boston inked the second baseman of the 2020 World Series-champion Los Angeles Dodgers to a two-year, $14 million deal on Friday afternoon. Hernandez checks off multiple boxes for manager Alex Cora‘s ballclub.
In all likelihood, Hernandez is Boston’s opening day second baseman. The 29-year-old is smooth at the middle infield position. He’s quick to his feet on groundballs, was integral in the Dodgers possessing one of the best defensive infields in baseball, and has been efficient in the field. Last season Hernandez posted eight DRS at second, a year after posting 13 DRS at the position.
While a primary second baseman, Hernandez dabbles at nearly every position on the field. Seriously, he has 132 career starts at second base, 56 at shortstop, 14 at third, and 11 at first. He also has 128 starts in center field, 60 in left, and 35 in right under his belt. Heck, he has even made an appearance out of the bullpen. He can do it all defensively.
At the plate, Hernandez lacks. He hit just .230 last season and is a career .240 hitter. At the same time, he totaled 38 home runs and 116 RBIs while posting a combined .760 OPS from 2018-19. He has some pop in his swing from the right side.
The defensive versatility is what Boston will benefit from the most. Hernandez starts at second with Xander Bogaerts by his side at short. The Red Sox currently have an uncertain outfield rotation. As is, they have Andrew Benintendi, Alex Verdugo, and Hunter Renfroe. While a respectable defender, J.D. Martinez is the team’s designated hitter, and Jackie Bradley Jr., the team’s center fielder of five years, remains a free agent.
Hernandez can play center if injuries present themselves and/or start in center once a week, giving Michael Chavis some reps at second.
Boston continued to sport one of the most productive offenses in baseball last season despite finishing in last place in the American League East. The likes of Bogaerts, Verdugo, Rafael Devers, Christian Vazquez, Yairo Munoz, and Bobby Dalbec helped the Red Sox finish second in Major League Baseball in hits (552), third in batting average (.265), eighth in slugging (.445), and 11th in runs (292).
Keep in mind that the above production came with Benintendi appearing in just 14 games due to a rib injury, Chavies having a discouraging second season at the plate, J.D. Martinez posting a .680 OPS, and Mitch Moreland and Kevin Pillar being traded midseason. If one of Martinez and Chavis gets back on track, they improve an already fearsome offensive attack. Plus, Renfroe is a year removed from blasting 33 home runs.
In short: the Red Sox don’t need Hernandez to hit .300 to have a functioning offense. That said, maybe a change of scenery with a more permanent role brings out a new version of Hernandez that hits at a higher level? Such a development, and healthy versions of others, makes an upper-tier Boston offense formidable.
This offense accompanies a starting rotation that will be better, as Chris Sale and Eduardo Rodriguez should return from injury/health issues at some point in the 2021 MLB season. The Red Sox also signed veteran right-hander Garrett Richards to a one-year, $10 million deal and acquired veteran reliever Adam Ottavino from the rival New York Yankees. They, at the very least, have a respectable rotation.
The Red Sox are closer to contending than rebuilding — by a hair. Such standing is largely based on their competition in the AL East.
The Yankees’ core remains intact, and they have several young pitchers who could be players on the big-league club this season. Albeit Blake Snell and Charlie Morton are gone, the Tampa Bay Rays still have a deep pitching staff and a fundamentally sound positional depth chart. The Toronto Blue Jays are a budding force and have added George Springer and Kirby Yates this offseason. Concurrently, the Baltimore Orioles finished ahead of the Red Sox last season and get their premier player, Trey Mancini, back.
The Red Sox are in the three-to-four range in their division. Is it impossible that they defy the odds and make the playoffs? It is not. It’s just an enormous hill to climb. That said, Chaim Bloom and friends are doing a plausible job of giving themselves a fighting chance.
Hernandez is a short-term enhancement that provides Cora with more options if youngsters struggle to turn a corner and is a player with something to prove (Hernandez was always an under-the-radar story in Los Angeles). If matters go south, Hernandez could be trade bait for Boston to fetch more youth before the trade deadline.
Enrique Hernandez is a tremendous addition for the Boston Red Sox.