Last week, GM Dave Stewart told the Arizona Republic’s Nick Piecoro that his Diamondbacks have been in contact with second baseman Howie Kendrick, and today, FOX’s Jon Morosi characterizes discussions between the two sides to be “ongoing.” Nothing is close between the two sides, per Morosi, and it should be noted that Piecoro wrote last week that the D-backs seem reluctant to sign a player that would require draft pick forfeiture, as Kendrick would.
Arizona has a number of infield options already, though presumed starter Chris Owings certainly doesn’t have Kendrick’s track record and is, in fact, coming off a dreadful season that was submarined by shoulder problems. Other internal options for the Diamondbacks at second base include prospect Brandon Drury (though he can also play third base) and struggling veteran Aaron Hill, who has one season remaining on his deal.
Despite the presence of in-house alternatives — at least one of whom, Owings, was recently viewed as a core player in the future — this isn’t the first instance of the D-backs being connected to second base upgrades. Arizona was also said to have discussed a swap of Hill and Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips. While that may appear curious at first glance, such a move would’ve saved the Reds quite a bit in terms of salary and relieved some burden from their payroll in the nearer future; Arizona, in turn, would reallocate Hill’s salary to a more productive veteran player. Ultimately, Piecoro reported last week that the D-backs weren’t comfortable with the salary that the Reds wanted them to assume in a Phillips/Hill swap. (And, of course, there’s the question of the trade veto ability that comes with Phillips’ 10-and-5 rights.)
Digression aside, Kendrick would seem to represent an upgrade over what the D-backs have in house. The 32-year-old has batted .295/.340/.414 over the past three seasons despite playing in considerably more pitcher-friendly environments than Arizona’s Chase Field. Kendrick has been remarkably consistent throughout his Major League tenure, providing offense that rates anywhere from a shade below to considerably above the league average when looking at league- and park-adjust metrics such as OPS+ and wRC+. Kendrick has never batted lower than .279 in a full season and never posted an OBP south of .313. His career .293/.333/.423 batting line is impressive and a reflection of his repeated seasons of quality at-bats.
However, Kendrick isn’t without his red flags, either. Much of his value has come from his quality defense over the years, and he took a significant step backwards in that regard last season. Ultimate Zone Rating and Defensive Runs Saved pegged Kendrick at -4.5 and -12 runs, respectively, despite his longstanding history of solid glovework. Kendrick, who has also been highly durable, missed more than a month on the disabled list due to a hamstring strain as well. While that incident could very well be isolated in nature, one can’t blame any team for hesitating to surrender a draft pick in order to sign a 32-year-old second baseman with a good-but-not-great bat and possibly deteriorating defensive skills to a long-term pact.
Morosi also notes that the Angels could potentially fit the description of a contending team with a need at second base, though I’d add that owner Arte Moreno’s aversion to the luxury tax would make that a tough fit. If the Angels were to sign Kendrick, from my view, they may as well sign an impact left field bat to upgrade the lineup at that point, shifting Craig Gentry and/or Daniel Nava into backup roles.