9:37am: FOX’s Ken Rosenthal hears that the D-backs remain reluctant to part with what be the No. 39 pick in this year’s draft (Twitter link).
8:45am: The Diamondbacks are in “active trade talks” and trying to move a second baseman, reports Bob Nightengale of USA Today (Twitter link). Moving one of their current options at the position would allow them to add Howie Kendrick to the fold, Nightengale adds.
Arizona has a number of options at second base, including Aaron Hill, Chris Owings and prospect Brandon Drury. Of the bunch, Hill is clearly the most appealing candidate to move, from Arizona’s perspective. The 33-year-old (34 in March) is set to earn $12MM in 2016 — the final season of a three-year, $35MM extension that was signed a few years back. The first season of that contract, while injury-shortened, was a productive one for Hill, but his bat has gone dormant over the past two seasons, yielding just a .238/.290/.359 slash line since Opening Day 2014.
The D-backs would need to eat the bulk of Hill’s remaining salary or take on a similarly undesirable contract in order to move Hill. Earlier this offseason, there was talk of Arizona sending Hill to Cincinnati in exchange for Brandon Phillips, although those talks reportedly fell through because the Diamondbacks felt they were being asked to take on too much of Phillips’ remaining $27MM in salary. The best bet to move Hill, in my view, would be to do so by taking on a similarly priced veteran to use as the club’s fourth outfielder or bullpen piece. Arizona, after all, has plenty of options around the infield and more rotation candidates than rotation spots following the additions of Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller.
The 32-year-old Kendrick would cost the D-backs their second draft pick of the offseason, as they’ve already forfeited their first-round selection (No. 13 overall) in order to sign Greinke. Surrendering that pick is something that GM Dave Stewart has firmly said the team would not do, though it’s always possible that their thinking or Kendrick’s asking price has changed since Stewart made those comments. Kendrick would be an unequivocal upgrade over the team’s collective .220/.266/.340 output from its second basemen last season. While Arizona could hope for better health and production out of Owings — and Stewart has said the team expects as much — adding some degree of certainty by signing Kendrick certainly has merit, especially when considering the lengths to which Arizona has already gone in an effort to build a contender this offseason.
I’ve mentioned since that time that this would be an odd time for the D-backs to draw a line in the proverbial sand and staunchly refuse to surrender further draft pick value. The team has already committed more than $34MM annually to Greinke over a six-year term and parted with an enormous amount of value to add Miller, so there’s little reason to suddenly hit the brakes from where I stand. Kendrick, of course, comes with some question marks — namely a decline in the eyes of defensive metrics — but he’s nonetheless been a steady, productive bat that would function as yet another upgrade to an improved Diamondbacks roster.