Dodgers bringing back Kiké Hernández in trade with Red Sox

Enrique Hernández celebrates hitting a home run in 2020
Kiké Hernández celebrates a home run in the 2020 playoffs against the Atlanta Braves.
(Eric Gay / Associated Press)
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Kiké Hernández is coming back to Los Angeles, the Dodgers taking a gamble he’ll look more like the player he was in his first stint with the team.

On Tuesday, the Dodgers completed a trade with the Boston Red Sox to reacquire Hernández, the veteran utility man who spent six years with the club from 2015 to 2020.

Hernández was having a career-worst year with the Red Sox, entering Tuesday batting .222 with just six home runs and a .599 on-base-plus-slugging percentage. While he gives the Dodgers the kind of right-handed bat they were seeking, he has been a below-league-average hitter against left-handed pitching this season, as well.


First baseman Freddie Freeman has not been charged with an error this season, but according to some advanced defensive metrics he doesn’t measure up.

July 27, 2023

Now that he’s headed back to the Dodgers, the club will be hoping the 31-year-old can rediscover the form he flashed during his peak years with the team, when he batted .240 with a .737 OPS and helped them win the 2020 World Series.

“We’ve seen firsthand what he’s capable of in October,” general manager Brandon Gomes said. “The instincts, the little things that he can provide on the field are something we really value and are a known quantity to us, which is helpful.”

The Dodgers sent minor league pitchers Nick Robertson and Justin Hagenman back in the deal, which was first reported by the Athletic. The Red Sox are also reportedly covering $2.5 million of the roughly $3.6 million still due to Hernández, who will be a free agent this offseason.

“We’re excited to get Kiké back here,” manager Dave Roberts said. “He obviously helped us win a championship. And he had his best years here in a Dodgers uniform.”

Hernández’s profile fits what the Dodgers were looking for leading up to the Aug. 1 trade deadline. He is a platoon option from the right side of the plate who can play multiple positions, including second base and center field, important versatility for a Dodgers squad that has rotated its outfield and used most-valuable player candidate Mookie Betts at second base and shortstop regularly this season.

Hernández should also be warmly received at Chavez Ravine, where he was a fan favorite for his postseason contributions and highlight-reel defense.


How much the 10th-year big leaguer will help the Dodgers in the batter’s box is another question.

After signing a two-year, $14-million contract as a free agent with Boston following the Dodgers’ 2020 title, Hernández had a solid debut season in Boston in 2021. He batted .250. He hit 20 home runs. And he caught fire in the playoffs, helping the Red Sox reach the American League Championship Series.

Boston Red Sox's Enrique Hernandez, right, celebrates with Justin Turner on April 18, 2023, in Boston.
Boston’s Kiké Hernández, right, celebrates with Justin Turner, another former Dodger, after scoring a run for the Red Sox against the Minnesota Twins on April 18.
(Michael Dwyer / Associated Press)

Since then, however, Hernández’s bat hasn’t been the same.

He batted .222 in 93 games last year, while posting his lowest OPS (.629) since 2016. This season, following a one-year, $10-million extension he signed in September, has been even worse.

Hernández has amassed four times as many strikeouts (68) as extra base hits (17). According to Baseball Savant, he is in the lowest possible percentile among major leaguers in expected batting average and slugging, as well.

Hernández has been better against left-handed pitching, but only barely, going 20 for 77 in such at-bats.


His defense at shortstop has also regressed, with his 14 errors at the position tied for most in the majors — though the Dodgers aren’t planning to play him there often.

“He hasn’t had the best of seasons,” Roberts said. “But for us, the bet is being back home, with familiarity, we can tap back into him being the player we know he can be and that we’ve seen.”

Hernández’s real value with the Dodgers could be in center field, where the club has struggled to find consistent defense.

Jake Marisnick was signed last week as a similar right-handed hitting platoon option in center, but is likely to miss at least several weeks with a left hamstring strain he suffered last week. Jonny DeLuca has been called up from the minors twice, but has gotten only limited opportunities at the plate. The Dodgers also still have Trayce Thompson, but he remains sidelined with an oblique injury sustained in early June.

“Whatever that night’s need is, we can kind of plug him in,” Gomes said of Hernández. “It’s fluid and we’ve got a lot of options.”

There are other, more productive right-handed bats available on the market this year, from Mark Canha and Tommy Pham of the New York Mets to perhaps even former NL Rookie of the Year Jonathan India of the Cincinnati Reds and, in an unlikely but intriguing potential scenario, Nolan Arenado of the St. Louis Cardinals.


Any of those trades, though, would require a more considerable cost to complete.

Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman indicated that the team will be “aggressive” in pursuit of a big arm before the trade deadline.

July 24, 2023

And while both Roberts and Gomes said acquiring Hernández doesn’t necessarily close the door on adding another bat, the team’s main focus remains on bolstering its pitching staff.

So, for now, the Dodgers started their pre-deadline activity by turning to a familiar face, taking a flier on Hernández in hopes he can contribute to another title run in Los Angeles.

“I still stand by, he’s one of the most talented baseball players I’ve been around,” Roberts said. “So I’m excited to see him blend in with this ballclub.”

Kershaw throws ‘pen

Clayton Kershaw took another step toward returning to action Monday by throwing a high-intensity up-and-down bullpen session.

“He used his entire pitch mix and came out feeling good,” Roberts said. “So we’re encouraged.”

If he continues feeling good, Kershaw will face hitters at some point in the next week. After that, he could be ready to return to the Dodgers rotation in early August.


Kershaw has not pitched for the Dodgers since June 27 because of an unspecified shoulder injury.