The Angels have some interest in utilityman Enrique Hernandez, according to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal. The Halos are the first team publicly linked to Hernandez this winter, which is perhaps unsurprising since he is coming off double hernia surgery in November and a pair of underwhelming seasons at the plate.
Hernandez’s defensive versatility has always been more of a calling card than his bat, though he produced roughly league-average (99 wRC+) offense over his first six seasons and then hit .250/.337/.449 for a 109 wRC+ over 585 plate appearances for the Red Sox in 2021. That was the first season of a two-year, $14MM deal for Hernandez with the Sox, and things seemed to be going swimmingly until an injury-plagued 2022 campaign.
Since Opening Day 2022, Hernandez has hit only .230/.290/.349 over 910 PA with the Red Sox and Dodgers. Boston retained the veteran on another contract extension for the 2023 season, but more struggles led the Sox to swap Hernandez to the Dodgers prior to the trade deadline. The move back to his old haunt at Dodger Stadium seemed to somewhat revitalize Hernandez, as he batted .262/.308/.423 over 185 in L.A. as opposed to his .222/.279/.320 slash line in 323 PA with the Red Sox prior to the deal.
It undoubtedly also helped that the Dodgers deployed Hernandez in his former super-utility role, rather than the regular shortstop duty Hernandez had to take on in Boston due to Trevor Story’s long stint on the injured list. While Hernandez had chipped in at shortstop several times during his career, playing the position on a regular basis exposed his glovework, and public defensive metrics weren’t impressed by the results.
With the Angels, Rosenthal writes that Hernandez would be viewed largely as a third base backup option to Anthony Rendon. Since Shohei Ohtani is gone and the designated hitter spot is now open, the Halos can rotate several veterans into DH duty for partial rest days, and Rendon is a natural candidate given his bevvy of injuries over the last few seasons.
It might not be a perfect platoon fit since Hernandez and Rendon are both right-handed hitters, and Hernandez has also played only 252 career innings at third base (with underwhelming defensive numbers). However, Hernandez would likely be bounced all over the diamond in Anaheim, and Luis Rengifo is also on hand to see some time at the hot corner whenever Rendon is at DH or getting a full day off.
The Angels have mostly been focused on pitching additions this winter, and have yet to do anything really meaningful with their position player group despite a lot of interest in various names still on the free agent market. Hernandez’s versatility could give L.A. depth at multiple positions, as his past experience as a center fielder would help address what seems to be a need for the Halos. Infield depth is also an item on the to-do list, since Gio Urshela, Eduardo Escobar, and Mike Moustakas are all free agents and David Fletcher was traded to the Braves.