UPDATE: The extension is now official, per a club announcement.
The Red Sox and center fielder Enrique Hernandez have reached agreement on a one-year, $10 million contract extension, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan.
Hernandez, who was slated to become a free-agent at the end of the season, will now remain in Boston through the end of the 2023 campaign. The veteran utility man originally signed a two-year, $14 million deal with the Sox last February after spending the previous six seasons with the Dodgers.
At that time, it was believed that Hernandez would take over as Boston’s everyday second baseman while providing depth at other positions. He instead emerged as an elite center fielder and wound up leading a Red Sox team that was two wins away from a World Series appearance in bWAR (4.9) in 2021.
On the heels of such a promising season, Hernandez had the chance to establish himself as one of the top position players in this winter’s free-agent class. Injuries, among other factors, prevented that from happening.
Through June 7 of this season, Hernandez was slashing just .209/.273/.340 with 16 doubles, four home runs, 24 RBIs, 27 runs scored, 18 walks, and 38 strikeouts over 51 games (238 plate appearances. The following day, the 31-year-old was placed on the 10-day injured list due to a right hip flexor strain.
Exactly one month after hitting the IL, Hernandez began a rehab assignment with Triple-A Worcester. But he was pulled from it after just one game and was sent to see a hip specialist in New York, where he received a platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection to speed up the healing process.
Beyond the flexor strain, Hernandez also dealt with a core injury that led to to a hematoma developing in one of his abdominal muscles and approximately 16 cubic centimeters of blood being drained through a needle in his back. He was transferred to the 60-day injured list on July 23 and was later sent out on a rehab assignment with Double-A Portland in early August.
After a brief four-game stint with the Sea Dogs, Hernandez returned to the Red Sox in Pittsburgh on Aug. 16. Since then, the right-handed hitter has batted .254/.318/.407 with three doubles, two homers, 13 RBIs, eight runs scored, six walks, and 20 strikeouts over his last 17 games.
Given his versatility, it is certainly no surprise that the Red Sox elected to lock up Hernandez now as opposed to later. The native Puerto Rican can play all over the field, which should allow Chaim Bloom and Co. to maintain a flexible and creative approach to the upcoming off-season.
Hernandez, who does not turn 32 until next August, was among a sizable group of Red Sox players set to hit the open market this winter. With Hernandez now signed, Boston is still faced with losing the likes of Xander Bogaerts, J.D. Martinez, Tommy Pham, Kevin Plawecki, Nathan Eovaldi, Michael Wacha, Rich Hill, and Matt Strahm in free agency.
As noted by both Passan and MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, the Red Sox are expected to have one of the busiest off-seasons in baseball on account of impending departures and a “massive” amount of financial flexibility.
(Picture of Enrique Hernandez: Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)