Howie Kendrick’s name has been popular on the rumor circuit this week, and Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports now reports that the veteran would prefer to be traded to a team that can give him a more regular role than the Dodgers did in 2016. FOX’s Ken Rosenthal reported earlier this week that the Dodgers were exploring possible Kendrick trades and that Kendrick was frustrated by his usage in Los Angeles, but Heyman’s report takes the story a bit further.
According to Heyman, Kendrick isn’t opposed to playing multiple positions in 2017 as he did in 2016 when he played second base, left field, third base and first base in L.A., but he’d prefer more regular at-bats. Kendrick played in 146 games and totaled 543 plate appearances last year, but that averages out to about 3.7 plate appearances per game — a notable decrease from the 4.2 PAs he averaged per game from 2010-15 with the Angels. There appears to be an opening at second base for Kendrick to return to his primary role next season, but Heyman notes that many in the game expect the Dodgers to re-sign Chase Utley, which would again cut into Kendrick’s playing time.
Of course, Kendrick’s own diminished performance may have played a role in his decrease in plate appearances. From 2010-15, Kendrick batted .289/.332/.418 as a member of the Angels — production that was about 11 percent better than the league average over that span, per OPS+. Last year, in a season in which offense was up league-wide, Kendrick’s production fell off to .255/.322/.366 — about 10 percent below the league average in terms of OPS+. He also received negative defensive marks at second base for the second straight season, although his work there came in a limited sample of just 210 innings. Kendrick also graded out average or slightly above in left field, depending on your defensive metric of choice.
With one year and $10MM remaining on his deal, Kendrick should still hold some degree of trade appeal. Rosenthal’s report listed the Phillies and Angels as possible landing spots, and Heyman points out that the Royals, too, could look for upgrades at second base. I’ll add, though, that if the Royals are going to add someone making $10MM to the books next year, they’ll probably have to subtract some salary as well, as GM Dayton Moore has said on multiple occasions that the team’s payroll is likelier to regress than to increase next year.
It should also be pointed out that the market for Kendrick needn’t be limited only to teams with second base openings. The Rangers, for instance, will lose a pair of outfielders in Carlos Gomez and Ian Desmond as well as first baseman Mitch Moreland, which could create multiple openings that Kendrick could fill. The Mets could use Kendrick in a variety of roles — a platoon bat in the outfield and insurance for David Wright, Lucas Duda and Jose Reyes around the infield. Other teams with corner outfield openings as well as some potential infield work include the Blue Jays, Indians and White Sox (though GM Rick Hahn’s recent comments may suggest that Chicago isn’t going to be adding a short-term veteran such as Kendrick). All of that, of course, is purely speculation on my behalf, but a player with Kendrick’s track record and versatility should pique the interest of many teams, especially if he’s indeed open to a utility role that affords him more at-bats, as Heyman indicated.