Sponsored

Tomase: Can Bloom follow through on his promise to Kiké Hernández?

/ by John Tomase
Presented By DraftKings
Sponsored
Kike Hernandez

The return of Kiké Hernández on a one-year, $10 million contract hardly means the Red Sox are back in business. After all, the deal perfectly fits Chaim Bloom's preferred sweet spot of short years at short money.

Something Hernández told reporters in Florida certainly caught the ear, however, and it provides the most tantalizing proof yet that Bloom is about to alter his approach with the Red Sox headed towards their fifth last-place finish since 2012.

"He knows that the most important thing for me is not just the opportunity to play every day but how much it means for me to play every day for a winning team," Hernández said. "I'm not going to say he promised me, but he promised me that we're going to be way better next year."

There's only one way to do that, and it's not by waiting for the farm system to bear fruit or signing mid-level free agents. In a perfect world, it's by retaining core players Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers, and then adding to the rotation and outfield with legitimate talent.

The Red Sox will have money to spend. Even after adding Hernández, they've only got about $100 million committed to next year's team, well under the $233 million luxury tax threshold. Even if arbitration and pre-arb deals consume $50 million of that surplus, with raises looming for Devers and Alex Verdugo, the Red Sox are still looking at anywhere from $70-$80 million to spend this winter, which theoretically puts them in the market for any free agent, from Aaron Judge on down.

 
Tomase: With money to spend this winter, will Red Sox take advantage?

Half measures will not help them survive the brutal AL East, not with the Orioles making a legitimate playoff push behind some of the game's best prospects, the Yankees still on pace for 97 wins despite their recent struggles, and the Rays and Jays holding the final two wild card spots.

For the Red Sox to be "way better" next year, they can't make deals like Hunter Renfroe for Jackie Bradley Jr., and they can't waste $6 million on the possibility that James Paxton might join their rotation in a year. They need to focus their resources on the 2023 big league roster and save the tinkering for the Rule 5 draft and minor league free agent signings.

They should feel heartened by the bang that Trevor Story has provided on his six-year, $140 million contract. If he hadn't been drilled by a pitch and broken his wrist, we'd probably be talking about a Gold Glove and maybe even 30 homers. As it is, despite missing 40 games, he has driven in exactly as many runs (63) as Bogaerts and Alex Verdugo, and a dozen more than J.D. Martinez. He is clearly a part of the solution moving forward, whether it's at second base or short.

More signings like that could remake the Red Sox in a hurry without committing $300 million to someone like Judge. The free agent market is thin, but perhaps that's where Bloom gets creative in targeting arbitration-eligible players due for raises on low-payroll teams. The Padres crushed this approach two years ago, acquiring right-hander Joe Musgrove from the Pirates. All he has done since is throw a no-hitter, make an All-Star team, and sign a five-year, $100 million extension.

The task is daunting, but at least Bloom can cross center fielder off the list. Assuming Hernández bounces back after an injury-plagued 2021, the plus defender should settle back into the lineup. The rest is up to Bloom.

Said Hernández: "I know there's a lot of question surrounding the team and the offseason and I just hope that I'm the first key piece to the team that's going to come back so we can be better next year."