Kiké Hernández gives first hint that Chaim Bloom, Red Sox could have big offseason

Tomase: Can Bloom keep his promise to Kiké Hernández? originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

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 is a perfect fit for Chaim Bloom’s sweet spot for a few years on little money.

Something Hernández told reporters in Florida certainly caught an ear, though, and provides the most tantalizing evidence yet that Bloom is about to change his approach with the Red Sox headed for their fifth-last finish since 2012.

“He knows the most important thing to me is not just the opportunity to play every day, but how much it means to me to play every day for a winning team,” Hernandez said. “I’m not going to say he promised me, but he promised me we’re going to be a lot better next year.”

There’s only one way to do that, and it’s not by waiting for the farm system to come to fruition or signing mid-level free agents. In a perfect world, this is done by keeping starters Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers, then adding to the rotation and outfield with legitimate talent.

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

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

Half a yard won’t help them survive in the brutal AL East, not with the Orioles making a legitimate playoff push behind some of the best prospects in the game, the Yankees still on pace for 97 wins despite their recent struggles and the Rays and Jays to hold the final two wild card spots.

For the Red Sox to be “much 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 will join their rotation in one year. They need to focus their resources on the 2023 big league roster and save the trouble for the Rule 5 draft and free agent signings for the minor leagues.

They should feel encouraged by the bang Trevor Story has provided on his six-year, $140 million contract. If he hadn’t been hit by a pitch and broken his wrist, we’d probably be talking about a gold glove and maybe 30 homers. Regardless, despite missing 40 games, he has driven in as many runs (63) as Bogaerts and Alex Verdugo, and twelve more than JD Martinez. He’s clearly a part of the solution moving forward, whether he’s at second base or shortstop.

More signings like this could rebuild 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 by targeting arbitration-eligible players due to raises on low-salary teams. The Padres squashed that approach two years ago by acquiring right-hander Joe Musgrove from the Pirates. All he’s done since then is throw a no-hitter, make an All-Star team and sign a five-year, $100 million extension.

It’s a daunting task, but at least Bloom can cross the central player off the list. Assuming Hernandez recovers from an injury in 2021, the plus defenseman should settle back into the lineup. The rest is in Bloom.

Said Hernández: “I know there are a lot of question marks around the team and the off-season and I’m just hoping that I’m the first key piece on the team that comes back so we can be better next year.”

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