Red Sox, utilityman Kiké Hernández agree to multi-year deal, per report

The Red Sox and free-agent utilityman Enrique Hernandez have reached agreement on a multi-year deal, according to MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand.

The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal adds that Hernandez’s new contract with Boston is good for $14 million over two years. It also includes deferrals and is pending a physical.

Hernandez, 29, had spent the previous six seasons with the Dodgers, most recently slashing a modest .230/.270/.410 to go along with five home runs and 20 RBI over 48 games played in 2020.

He also put together a decent postseason for Los Angeles en route to their first World Series title since 1988 by posting a .755 OPS across 15 games and 31 plate appearances this past October.

A right-handed hitter and right-handed thrower, Hernandez has proven to be quite the versatile player in his tenure with the Dodgers, seeing playing time all around the infield, outfield, and even the pitcher’s mound (one appearance in 2018).

Going back to last season, Los Angeles deployed the Puerto Rican at second base 27 times, in right field seven times, in left field four times, in center field three times, and at first base and shortstop two times each.

Based off these totals, one might assume Hernandez’s best position defensively is second base, which in this case is true.

Per FanGraphs, the 5-foot-11, 190 lb. infielder/outfielder played 220 1/3 innings at second base in 2020. In those 220 1/3 innings, he was worth positive-8 defensive runs saved despite posting a negative-2.6 ultimate zone rating.

Going into the offseason, the Red Sox sought out to address their second base issues coming off a 2020 season in which that particular position group  put up an American League-worst .586 OPS and league-worst wRC+ of 55.

The addition of Hernandez, who by no means is an offensive superstar, might not be too appealing on the surface, but this is really a solid pickup for the Sox.

That being the case because when they don’t need him to play second base, the club could start him at a bevy of other positions, including all three spots in the outfield if necessary.

As an added bonus, which the Red Sox likely took into consideration here, Hernandez owns a lifetime wRC+ of 120 in 893 career plate appearances against left-handed pitching.

That attribute could very well come in handy if Hernandez was to be used a platoon option with Andrew Benintendi in left field, assuming Benintendi is still on the team by Opening Day.

Of course, given his connections to Puerto Rico, Hernandez should be familiar with Red Sox manager Alex Cora, who, as Team Puerto Rico’s general manager for the 2017 World Baseball Classic, picked the former sixth-round draft pick to play for his home island’s team.

In signing Hernandez to a two-year deal, Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. have now added four free-agents (Hernandez, Martin Perez, Matt Andriese, Hunter Renfroe) on major-league contracts so far this winter.

Of that group, Hernandez is the first to get a deal with a guaranteed second year as opposed to a club option.

(Picture of Enrique Hernandez: Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Red Sox manager Alex Cora hints at team’s interest in free-agent outfielder Eddie Rosario

The Minnesota Twins non-tendered Eddie Rosario last Wednesday. It took all of a day for the free-agent outfielder to be linked to the Red Sox.

Rosario, 29, hails from Puerto Rico and is close with Sox manager Alex Cora, who served as Rosario’s general manager for Team Puerto Rico during the 2017 World Baseball Classic.

Because he was projected by MLB Trade Rumors to earn approximately $9.6 million in his third and final year of arbitration eligibility in 2021, Rosario was ultimately let go by Minnesota, thus making him a free agent earlier than expected.

Having finished in the top-20 in American League MVP voting each of the last two seasons, Rosario being cut came as somewhat of a surprise. The former fourth-round draft pick had just put the finishing touches on a 2020 campaign in which he slashed .257/.316/.476 with 13 home runs and 42 RBI over 57 games and 231 plate appearances. That’s good for an OPS+ of 115 and a wRC+ of 110.

Cora was one of those in the game who were caught off guard by the Twins’ decision to let Rosario go. He said as much when speaking to Puerto Rican newspaper El Nuevo Dia earlier Monday afternoon.

“As a friend, I was surprised by what happened to Eddie last week,” Cora said (in Spanish). “As a baseball man, we will see what happens in the future. Eddie is a complete player, who still has room to keep improving. Everyone knows how talented he is.”

Talented as the left-handed hitting Rosario may be, his fit within the Red Sox’ roster does not exactly line up at the moment. That is the case because Boston already has two left-handed hitting outfielders — Andrew Benintendi and Alex Verdugo — on their major-league roster.

On top of that, Rosario is best suited for a corner outfield position defensively, more so left field if he were to regularly play at Fenway Park, meaning one of Benintendi or Verdugo would have to make a move to center or be traded in order to accommodate Rosario.

So, as of now, the odds of a Rosario-Cora reunion of sorts happening seems low, especially when you consider what the Sox should be prioritizing this offseason: starting pitching and bullpen help.

That said, if the opportunity arises and there is a way Rosario would fit on this roster, it would not be surprising to see Boston explore that avenue at some point this winter.

“What we are going to do for everything we do is be smart and opportunistic,” Cora said of his team’s offseason approach. “And this market is perfect for being opportunistic.”

2021 World Baseball Classic Cancelled Due to Coronavirus Pandemic

The 2021 World Baseball Classic will be cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to ESPN’s Enrique Rojas.

Per Rojas, a source told him, “The tournament was canceled. It is not the priority right now,” while another source said, “Basically the only thing missing is an official announcement.”

The fifth installment of the international baseball tournament was scheduled to take place from March 9th until March 23rd of next year in the United States, Taiwan, and Japan.

16 countries — Australia, Canada, China, Colombia, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Taiwan, Israel, Italy, Japan, South Korea, the Netherlands, Mexico, Puerto Rico, the United States and Venezuela — had already qualified for the 2021 WBC since they all participated in 2017.

However, with the tournament increasing its number of participating teams to 20, two additional qualifying tournaments were set to take place in Arizona in March, but they were cancelled due to the ongoing pandemic.

The cancellations of those qualifying events came about three weeks before the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo were also postponed.

As Rojas states, “Because the [WBC] is part of the current Collective Labor Agreement (CBA) between MLB and its players union, which expires in December 2021, rescheduling the tournament must be negotiated.”

USA Today’s Bob Nightengale is reporting that the next World Baseball Classic will either be held in 2023 or 2025. More specific details will likely come into focus once Major League Baseball and the MLBPA agree on a specific date in future negotiations.