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.