- Upton ended up with a robust six-year, $132.75MM deal with the Tigers this winter, Reynolds says that Upton’s search for a new team hit a snag this offseason before he ultimately signed. Some teams’ potential interest in Upton was muted by their desire to avoid exceeding the luxury tax threshold. (Reynolds doesn’t say who, but it’s easy to imagine the Angels, for example, worrying about that issue.) Also, a robust trade market held up potential free agent signings, with some teams wanting to explore that market before making a commitment to a free agent. Reynolds also says that many teams were offering Upton short-term deals. The agent understandably notes that he found such deals unappealing, given that Upton is highly talented and just 28. Of course, Detroit ultimately came through with a long-term offer.
- It was, perhaps, a rough winter for Kendrick, who lingered on the free agent market before officially signing a seemingly disappointing two-year, $20MM deal to stay with the Dodgers. The qualifying offer had a strong impact on Kendrick, Reynolds says, since he didn’t have the “star power” of some other free agents who rejected the QO. For Kendrick, the effect of the qualifying offer on his market wasn’t purely about the amount of money he could get, but about the way it restricted his ability to choose what team (what manager, what front office, and so on) he wanted to play for. Reynolds says that it “wasn’t a slam dunk to jump out into the market” rather than accepting the qualifying offer, but Kendrick felt, and Reynolds agreed, that Kendrick had earned the right to choose his next team via free agency.
Andre Ethier has been the most oft-mentioned trade candidate for the Dodgers recently, in part, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today (Twitter link), because Los Angeles is telling teams with interest in Yasiel Puig that Puig is not available at this time. Puig isn’t without his red flags, as he’s facing potential disciplinary action in connection with domestic violence allegations, is coming off a down season and has long come with questions about his clubhouse persona. Of course, even Puig’s “down” season saw him bat a solid .255/.322/.436 with 11 homers in 311 plate appearances, and he remains just 25 years of age with a considerable track record of elite production under his belt. Puig’s contract guarantees him $19.5MM over the next three seasons, although it also allows him to opt into arbitration once he is eligible next offseason, so it’s perhaps likely that he’ll instead go that route, as his earning capacity figures to be greater going down the arbitration path.
A few more Dodgers-related notes…
- Dodgers GM Farhan Zaidi was a guest on High Heat with Chris Russo on the MLB Network today (video link) and discussed a number of topics regarding the upcoming season. In regard to left-hander Hyun-jin Ryu, who underwent shoulder surgery and missed all of the 2015 season, Zaidi stopped short of declaring that he’d be ready for Opening Day but did say the Korean southpaw’s recovery is progressing as expected. Zaidi sounded hopeful that Ryu would indeed be available, but as the GM noted, it’s impossible to project a player’s return from that type of procedure before seeing him pitch in a game setting.
- Zaidi deflected the notion that the team is looking to move Andre Ethier, stating that, “Right now, he’s a really important part of our team,” mentioning Ethier’s quite-productive numbers from the 2015 season (albeit in a platoon capacity). Zaidi acknowledged that the Dodgers have quite a bit of outfield depth and stressed that earlier in the offseason, the team was open to various scenarios involving a number of their players. “But right now, we have nothing going on,” Zaidi continued. “…We expect [Ethier] to be here in 2016.”
- Howie Kendrick, whose two-year, $20MM contract with the Dodgers became official today, will see time not only at second base but also at third base in 2016, president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman told reporters, including Bill Shaikin of the L.A. Times, on today’s conference call. “He expressed a willingness to play different spots,” said Friedman of Kendrick. “That’s when things kind of accelerated.” Friedman said there could be as many as 1400 at-bats to go around between Kendrick, Chase Utley and Enrique Hernandez, with each expected to play multiple positions. As Shaikin notes, Kendrick’s willingness to play third base is of particular importance given Justin Turner’s offseason knee surgery and the fact that Turner has never played more than 126 games in a season before.
- Interestingly, Shaikin adds his own bit about the recent trade talks between the Dodgers and White Sox, reporting that the Sox actually approached the Dodgers about Puig, but the Dodgers instead tried to sell the Sox on trades involving Ethier and Carl Crawford. At this point, there’s very little traction between the two sides, a source tells Shaikin.
- Kendrick and his agent, Larry Reynolds, were among those that spoke to Nightengale for a full column on the problems caused by the current qualifying offer system. Reynolds, an agent for 32 years, told Nightengale that Kendrick’s free agency was the most difficult of any throughout his career representing players. Kendrick himself expressed surprise at the lack of interest in him: “Nobody wanted to give up that draft pick. It was a shocker.”
New details on the payout have been reported today by Jon Heyman (Twitter links). Kendrick will receive $10MM annually in each year of the contract, half of which will be deferred. But Heyman suggests that the deferrals won’t significantly reduce the contract’s value.
The 32-year-old Kendrick will also cost the Dodgers the opportunity to add another draft pick. He previously declined a $15.8MM qualifying offer, which obviously did not pay off in the end. But it’s hard to fault Kendrick and his reps for that decision, as he seemed to be in line for a much bigger payday; MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes, for instance, predicted that Kendrick could land $50MM over four years.. (And it isn’t as if the downside scenario is all that bad.)
Bringing back Kendrick not only plugs in a talented veteran, but effectively adds to the Dodgers’ already impressive depth. Going back to 2010, Kendrick owns an excellent.289/.332/.418 slash. His steady contributions at the plate have been accompanied by good-enough work in the field and on the bases, making him an above-average regular.
While Kendrick says he’s “thankful” to be returning to L.A., he also tells Bob Nightengale of USA Today that he was shocked at how his market played out. Interest was minimal despite his long track record of sturdy production, said Kendrick, with the QO-driven draft compensation seemingly proving a significant impediment.
“I figured there would be quite a few suitors for me, and nobody was really calling,” said Kendrick. “Here it is, getting close to spring training, and you keep hearing the same thing over and over. Nobody wanted to give up that draft pick. It was a shocker.’’
Indeed, while market peculiarities probably also played a role — including relatively low demand and several trade candidates — it is hard to deny the impact of the qualifying offer. Ben Zobrist was heavily pursued and earned a $56MM guarantee, while a lesser (albeit shortstop-capable) player in Asdrubal Cabrera earned nearly as much as Kendrick. While fellow QO recipient Daniel Murphy fared better, his own $37.5MM deal also came in shy of expectations.
On Saturday, the Diamondbacks acquired shortstop Jean Segura and reliever Tyler Wagner from the Brewers in exchange for starting pitcher Chase Anderson, second baseman Aaron Hill, and prospect Isan Diaz. The deal brings a notable player to the Diamondbacks’ lineup while also creating something of a logjam at his position.
Here’s a look at what Arizona GM Dave Stewart has said about the deal and what could come next for the D’Backs:
- Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart did not dispute the idea that the D’Backs could parlay their infield depth into a trade to bolster another area, as Nick Piecoro of The Arizona Republic writes. Stewart also indicated that another GM has already approached him about that idea. “It does give us flexibility and also the dollars saved give us some flexibility as well,” Stewart said. “You guys know we’ve been looking at middle relievers. We’ve been looking at closers. We’ve been looking in those areas to try to get better. If there is a deal out there to be made we have to look at it.”
- Stewart added that dealing Hill also saves the club some money if they want to take another look at the free agent market. Hill, the veteran of the trade, has declined steadily since a peak season in 2012. Injuries and playing time battles held him to 353 plate appearances last season and he hit just .230/.295/.345. Entering his age 34 season, he’s owed $12MM in the final year of his contract.
- Prospect Isan Diaz was “one of the first names” mentioned by the Brewers in trade talks, Stewart said (Twitter link via Jack Magruder of FOX Sports). Baseball America rated Diaz the ninth best prospect in the Arizona system. Diaz, 20 in May, is coming off a strong season in rookie ball in which he was dubbed the MVP of the Pioneer League.
- While giving proper respect to Nick Ahmed, Stewart told MLB Network Radio (on Twitter) that Segura is going to get most of his reps at shortstop rather than second base.
- Also in his chat with MLB Network Radio, Stewart confessed that the D’Backs took payroll into consideration by acquiring Segura instead of a free agent like Howie Kendrick. “We are not, right now, as financially solid as we’d like to be,” Stewart said (audio link). “But the addition of [Zack] Greinke took some dollars out of our pocket. We were considering our compensation pick and we also lost our first round pick and I think, as a group, we weren’t willing to give up the comp pick.”
Fans of Dodgers broadcasting legend Vin Scully will be glad to hear that he plans to work a few road games this season, writes Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. Scully hopes to cover the end-of-season series in San Francisco as well as games in San Diego and Anaheim. The 87-year-old will retire after the season. As the only remaining solo broadcaster in the majors, Scully is entering his 67th season in booth. He was recently in the news after Los Angeles legislators decided to name a street after him.
Here’s more from the Dodgers:
- Newly installed manager Dave Roberts says Howie Kendrick is willing to play some third base, tweets Andy McCullough of the LA Times. Kendrick re-signed with the Dodgers yesterday on a two-year, $20MM contract. His addition creates something of a logjam in the infield with Kendrick, Chase Utley, Enrique Hernandez, and others in the mix for reps at second base. While all three players might get a shot at the hot corner, Justin Turner is currently penciled in as the starter there (more on him in moment). The depth should be highly useful to the club, but they’ll have to work hard to find time for everybody.
- For his part, Utley still expects to split his time between second, third, and first base, writes Gurnick. When the Dodgers signed Utley, there was no expectation they might re-sign Kendrick. The recent move has likely cut into the opportunities for Utley.
- However, third baseman Turner had offseason microfracture surgery for his left knee. Apparently, his recovery will force the club to move slowly with him at the start of the year. That should open an early season opportunity for Utley. Per Bill Plunkett of the OC Register (via Twitter), Turner is optimistic about an Opening Day return. Even so, he probably won’t be ready for an everyday role.
The Dodgers have reached agreement on a two-year deal with second baseman Howie Kendrick, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter links). Kendrick gets a $20MM guarantee over the two years, Jon Heyman tweets.
With the move, Los Angeles will sacrifice its chance to tack on an additional draft selection. Kendrick, 32, turned down a $15.8MM qualifying offer from the club earlier in the offseason. As MLBTR’s Steve Adams explained earlier today, the Dodgers stood to increase their draft pool had Kendrick headed elsewhere.
Instead, the club will add Kendrick right back into a crowded mix of position players. Presumably, he’ll see the bulk of the time at second, displacing an anticipated Enrique Hernandez/Chase Utley platoon. But Hernandez could also spell Corey Seager at short and Joc Pederson in center, while Utley can not only spend time at second but also might fill in for Justin Turner at third. Players such as Micah Johnson, Charlie Culberson, and Alex Guerrero could also feature in the infield mix.
Coming into the winter, MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes had predicted that Kendrick could land $50MM over four years. Clearly, he stands to fall well shy of that after his market failed to develop as anticipated. It’s not difficult to see that market developments played a huge role, along with the qualifying offer.
The older Ben Zobrist hit on a $56MM guarantee, besting his own projection. He didn’t carry draft compensation requirements since he was traded in mid-season. Meanwhile, the younger but also QO-bound Daniel Murphy came closer to his expectations with a three-year, $37.5MM pact. But Kendrick was left without an obvious place as the board began to clear. As Steve Adams and I discussed just yesterday on the MLBTR podcast, even the best apparent landing spots all had complications. Indeed, he’ll ultimately take home a guarantee that barely tops that reached by the less-accomplished Asdrubal Cabrera.
At the end of the day, the acquisition cost was much lower than Los Angeles paid the last time they added Kendrick. The Dodgers sent young lefty Andrew Heaney last year for Kendrick (and his $9.5MM salary). And as the qualifying offer shows, the team was willing to pay him over three-quarters of the total value of his new contract for just one season.
As things shook out, it looks like a nice get for the depth-focused Dodgers. While Kendrick dealt with some injuries late last year, and is certainly not the youngest open market option, he’s been a steadily excellent performer for quite some time. Since taking over full-time duties at second with the Angels back in 2010, Kendrick has carried a sturdy .289/.332/.418 batting line. And he’s rarely varied too far from that production level, making him one of the more reliably above-average hitters in the league.
It’s been a while since Kendrick put up his career best of 18 long balls, but he’s a reasonable bet to approach or exceed double digits in that area. And the same holds in the stolen base department, though he’s more of an average overall baserunner than a plus in that area. It’s tough to judge the defensive component for the respected veteran. Kendrick undoubtedly slipped last year, with roundly negative overall glovework in the eyes of both UZR and DRS. But he’s generally been at least an average defender over his career, and even if his loss of range proves permanent, he is still reliable on more easily-made plays.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
10:18am: The Dodgers are “making progress” on a new contract with Kendrick, reports Rosenthal (via Twitter).
8:02am: Despite having already signed Chase Utley this offseason and possessing considerable infield depth, the Dodgers are considering a reunion with Howie Kendrick, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. There are additional factors to consider, as well, he notes, namely that the Dodgers would effectively be surrendering a draft pick by re-signing Kendrick. Despite the fact that they won’t lose an existing pick, Los Angeles would not receive the compensatory pick they’d have landed had Kendrick signed elsewhere after rejecting their qualifying offer back in November. That pick, as it stands right now, would slot in around No. 33 in the draft and give the Dodgers four of the top 36 picks this June — joining their natural No. 22 overall selection, the No. 32 pick they obtained when the D-backs signed Zack Greinke and the No. 36 selection they received as compensation for failing to sign Kyle Funkhouser out of Louisville last year.
While the Dodgers figure to have one of the larger bonus pools in this year’s draft as it is simply by the virtue of those three selections, adding a fourth to the mix would give the club a significant amount of money to implement a creative strategy in the 2016 draft. Going off of last year’s slot values in the draft — and I should note that there was an 8.77 percent increase in slot values between 2014 and 2015 — the Dodgers’ currently projected picks at Nos. 22, 32 and 36 would carry a value of $5.72MM. Adding in a fourth pick in that No. 33 slot, the Dodgers would have $7.55MM in bonus money from their first four picks alone. Based on an estimated slot growth of six percent in 2016 (reflective of MLB’s six percent revenue increase in 2015), Baseball America projects the Dodgers to currently have a bonus pool of $9,296,370 — 10th-largest in the league. Adding in the No. 33 pick and accounting for that same six percent inflation in value, the Dodgers’ draft pool would increase to about $12.15MM — the fifth-largest in the league. The Dodgers, then, would be able to spend roughly $12.76MM on draft bonuses without losing a first-round pick in the future. (The current structure allows a team to overshoot its pool by up to five percent before losing a future pick; the initial 0 to 5 percent overage is taxed at a rate of 75 percent, however.)
Perhaps that’s overthinking the matter at this juncture, but these are factors that the Dodgers, to be certain, have already considered in weighing whether or not to seriously pursue a reunion with Kendrick. Beyond that, though, could simply be where the team would work Kendrick into the lineup and at what rate he is currently willing to sign. Utley currently sits atop the Dodgers’ depth chart at second base, but the team also has the highly versatile Enrique Hernandez as an option at second base, and well-regarded prospect Micah Johnson — acquired in the three-team Todd Frazier trade — is nearly ready for a full-time look in the Majors as well. Alex Guerrero also remains on the roster, though he was used sparingly in the season’s second half and didn’t appear in a big league game at second last season despite it being his most frequently manned position in the minors.
As Rosenthal notes, Justin Turner underwent offseason knee surgery, but he’s said in the past that his expectation is to be 100 percent for Spring Training, and the team has quite a bit of positional depth already; Utley himself is already somewhat of an insurance policy that one can envision eventually moving around the diamond in somewhat of a utility role, and adding Kendrick to either expedite that transition or to fill a similar capacity would make for some high-priced assets lacking a clear opportunity for everyday at-bats over the course of the year.
Of course, the longer Kendrick remains on the market, the easier it is to see him returning to the Dodgers on what some could end up considering a club-friendly deal. While Rosenthal doesn’t specify an asking price for Kendrick, his price has almost certainly dropped since the offseason began. There’s been little in the way of teams connected to Kendrick recently, though the D-backs are said to have some interest. GM Dave Stewart, however, said recently that he wouldn’t part with a second draft pick after surrendering his No. 13 overall pick to sign Greinke. The Angels certainly make some sense as a landing spot for Kendrick, but owner Arte Moreno appears entirely unwilling to surpass the $189MM luxury tax threshold, and adding Kendrick would certainly cause the team to do so. Following an interview with Brewers GM David Stearns on this week’s MLBTR Podcast, Jeff Todd and I took a look at Kendrick’s market and tried to peg some dark-horse suitors for him late in the offseason. Kendrick and fellow middle infielder Ian Desmond were the subjects of a recent poll in which 70 percent of MLBTR readers picked Desmond to earn more than Kendrick in the late stages of free agency.
If your club is in need of some veteran middle infield talent, the market begins with two names: Ian Desmond and Howie Kendrick. The former is a shortstop and the latter a second baseman, and neither has really spent much big league time at other positions, so they aren’t exactly direct competitors. But it’s still interesting to consider which qualifying offer-bound free agent is best situated to cash in at this stage of the winter.
It long seemed like Desmond would be the more hotly pursued of the two players. He offers a rare power/speed combination for a shortstop and has been one of the game’s most valuable players at the position — including a .264/.317/.443 slash and over twenty home runs per season — since breaking out in 2012.
Desmond is also a more valuable defender than most realize. He’s received average metrics, give or take, with his strong range and powerful arm helping to make up for a steady helping of errors. And Desmond is not only a solid stolen base threat, but a highly-rated overall baserunner.
At 30 years of age, the highly-respected Desmond seems well-situated to cash in. There’s no denying that 2015 was a down year. After rating as a 3.5 to 4.5 WAR player for each of the three prior seasons, Desmond accumulated just 2.0 rWAR and 1.7 fWAR as he struggled at the plate and in the field. On the other hand, that doesn’t look like a terrible downside scenario, and the highly athletic veteran ought to age well physically. I predicted he’d have to settle for $70MM to secure a fifth guaranteed year, while MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes felt he could reach $80MM over that term.
Kendrick is a bit older at 32, and plays the less valuable position defensively. But if Desmond feels like a player whose upside comes with some risk, then Kendrick seems to be a steadier option — at least at the plate.
While he’s never put up a monster offensive season, Kendrick owns a .289/.332/.418 slash since becoming a full-time regular in 2010. And he’s never strayed too far from that line: Kendrick has been a more-or-less league-average or better hitter in each of the last nine seasons. While he’s more of a 10/10 than a 20/20 type, he has topped out at 18 home runs and 14 stolen bases.
Kendrick has generally been a steady defender, with most of his campaigns ending in the black in the estimation of UZR and DRS, though he did slip in that regard last year. His baserunning isn’t an asset, overall, but isn’t a hindrance either.
In the aggregate, Kendrick offers reasonable expectations of being a quality, first-division regular. And when the stars have aligned, as in 2011 and 2014, he’s been even more than that. He ended 2015 with injury issues, and while they don’t figure to linger, that did seem to take some momentum out of his market. Dierkes predicted that Kendrick would be able to score four years and $50MM on the open market.
As always, demand is critical. We’ve heard varying degrees of interest from various clubs in both players. But clearly, neither has been targeted as strongly as might have been hoped. Then again, while there’s always a danger for a player of the music stopping with no chairs left, both Desmond and Kendrick seem to have plausible landing spots. The question, though, is how much leverage they’ll have to command the deals that were originally expected.
So, which player do you think is the more valuable free agent asset as things stand in the market?
The Diamondbacks are attempting to trade veteran infielder Aaron Hill, Jon Heyman tweets. Earlier this week, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported that the Diamondbacks were looking to trade a second baseman, potentially clearing space for the team to sign free agent Howie Kendrick. The D-backs have other second basemen who might be more attractive in a trade, like Chris Owings and Brandon Drury, but it appears Hill is the one they’re looking to deal.
Of course, as Heyman points out, trading Hill won’t be easy. For one thing, the middle infield market is still relatively robust, with Kendrick, Ian Desmond, Jimmy Rollins and others still available. Also, Hill is owed $12MM in 2016 and is coming off two straight poor seasons at the plate. He batted .230/.295/.345 in 2015, a line that was bad but not markedly worse than his 2014 performance. And while defensive metrics once marked him as a plus second baseman, they’ve downgraded him to average or slightly below average in recent seasons.
Hill would appear, then, to have no trade value due to his age (33), performance and salary. The Diamondbacks and Reds previously discussed a trade involving Hill and Brandon Phillips. That deal didn’t work out, but it fits the basic form a Hill trade would likely take — the D-backs would likely have to take on another expensive player in return, or at least pay much of Hill’s remaining salary. Of course, if their ultimate goal were to sign Kendrick (which is unclear, since Kendrick declined a qualifying offer and Arizona has previously expressed a strong desire to keep their top remaining draft pick), the Diamondbacks might instead seek a high-salaried veteran who played a position outside the middle infield.
Of course, the Diamondbacks could clear roster space and avoid the headache of trying to trade Hill’s contract by dealing Owings, but Owings plays a decent defensive shortstop and would therefore be more useful in a utility role if the Diamondbacks were to sign Kendrick or another infielder. Hill has not played shortstop since 2006 and spent last season at second base and third, so his tactical value to the Diamondbacks is limited, particularly given that they already have a variety of infield options.
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.