LOS ANGELES -- Kiké Hernández’s first stint with the Dodgers was extremely successful. He became a fan favorite over the years and ultimately won a World Series in his final season in 2020.
The Dodgers are now taking a chance that his second stint will be just as successful. On Tuesday, the Dodgers completed a three-player trade with the Red Sox to acquire Hernández, sending right-handers Nick Robertson and Justin Hagenman.
Dodgers get: UTIL Kiké Hernández
Red Sox get: RHPs Nick Robertson and Justin Hagenman
“We’re excited to get Kiké back here,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “He obviously helped us win a championship and had his best years here in a Dodger uniform. I know the fans are excited. He’s got a great relationship with the fans.”
Like Roberts said, Hernández did, indeed, have his best seasons as a member of the Dodgers but he has struggled over the last two seasons. The 2023 campaign has been the most challenging of his career, at least up to this point.
In 86 games with the Red Sox this season, Hernández is hitting .222 with six homers. His .599 OPS would be the lowest of his career.
Given his struggles, why did the Dodgers decide to trade for him? The first reason is familiarity. The Dodgers believe reuniting him with the hitting coaches and some of his old teammates could help him tap into something. Los Angeles’ hitting coaches Robert Van Scoyoc and Aaron Bates also saw some things on tape that could help Hernández get closer to his old self. That, of course, remains to be seen.
“I still stand by, he’s one of the most talented baseball players I’ve been around,” Roberts said. “I’m excited to see him and [have him] blend in with this ballclub. It’s a very unselfish group, a team-first oriented. I think that Kiké can definitely help this group.”
Offensively, Hernández will play mostly against left-handed pitching. General manager Brandon Gomes said he spoke with Hernández and made sure both parties were clear that he would be used in a platoon role. Hernández has struggled against southpaws this season, posting just a .652 OPS. Over the course of his career, however, Hernández is an .811 OPS hitter against lefties.
“His versatility and if things happen injury-wise, he provides coverage in a lot of different areas,” Gomes said. “He’s eager to work with our hitting guys and get back to the offensive production that we know he’s capable of.”
Defensively, Hernández has struggled mightily this season, especially at shortstop. He has graded out as one of the worst shortstops with 14 errors at the position. His -13 outs above average rating on Baseball Savant is the second lowest at shortstop in the Majors, behind the Guardians’ Amed Rosario.
With the Dodgers, though, Hernández isn’t expected to play much shortstop. Instead, he will see most of his time in center field and second base. The Dodgers have leaned on Yonny Hernández and Jonny Deluca to handle the responsibilities against lefties over the last week.
In the end, the Dodgers are taking a chance. But it’s one they see as low risk, high reward. Only time will tell how much it’ll pay off.
“He’s a floor raiser, certainly,” Roberts said. “But if he plays the way that we expect him to play and how he has played for us, it’s a ceiling raiser.”