This offseason, the Angels are expected to pursue a trade involving Howie Kendrick, according to Jon Heyman. Prior to this year’s trade deadline, the club was in talks with the Dodgers about a trade that would sent top prospect Zach Lee to the Angels. Pitching, after consecutive disappointing seasons, is going to be a priority this winter.
The Halos would be wise to acquire a young, cost-controlled arm. Their farm system lacks impact talent in the upper levels, and their back-loaded contracts will see them shelling out Yankee money to several players in the coming years. This Mike Trout kid figures to be paid exorbitant amounts of money when he reaches arbitration or agrees to an extension, so having players that you can pay the league minimum makes a lot of sense.
Kendrick’s contract is relatively team-friendly. He’s owed $9.35 million in 2014 and $9.5 million in 2015. That’s a bargain given Kendrick’s production from 2011 on, as well as his relative youth (he turned 30 in July).
The market for Howie Kendrick could be tremendous this offseason. Robinson Cano is the clear top second baseman available in free agency, and teams more conscious of their short-term budgets could look at Kendrick as a sufficient upgrade that comes without Cano’s potentially $200 million price tag. So, without further adieu, let’s take a closer look at which teams might be in this market and what they could offer the Angels for Kendrick.
Los Angeles Dodgers (of Los Angeles) | Current 2B: Mark Ellis
Mark Ellis is a fine baseball player, but the Dodgers don’t appear to be content with just fine baseball players. The 36-year-old is triple-slashing a modest .269/.319/.354, and has a club option worth $5.75 million next season. The Dodgers can opt out for $1 million and pursue other options, like Howie Kendrick.
Ellis’s availability would also have an impact on the market, but if the Dodgers would opt out of the Ellis contract in search of an upgrade, they’ll clearly have interest in Kendrick.
The Dodgers, typical of a well-run organization, have strong young pitching in their farm system. Zach Lee’s name came up in talks prior to the deadline, but, on the pitching side, the system also boasts Matt Magill, Chris Reed, Garrett Gould, and relievers Chris Withrow and Onelki Garcia. Lower down in the minors is Jose Urias, the lovable 16-year-old who reached the mid-90s in the Midwest League this season.
Other than the fact that the Dodgers are the Dodgers, they look like a very viable trade partner for the Angels.
Baltimore’s infield is already pretty ridiculous; they have Manny Machado at third, J.J. Hardy at shortstop, and Chris Davis at first. At second base, Roberts is almost four years removed from his last productive season (2009), and Flaherty is more of a second division starter. The O’s will certainly have interest in upgrading at the keystone this offseason.
The Orioles have two silly good pitching prospects in Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy. Each prospect has top of the rotation stuff, but Gausman has struggled in limited big league action this season and Bundy has missed the entire season after having Tommy John surgery. The Halos would be wise to gamble on either arm, but the Orioles have their own starting pitching issues, and may be looking for internal options to step forward before pursuing starting pitching elsewhere. Even so, the O’s could dangle the left-handed Eduardo Rodriguez or Mike Wright.
The Rockies are about where you could expect them to be this season. They’re a middle-of-the-pack team, but they could get a lot better very soon. They have two strong pieces in their rotation in Jhoulys Chacin and Jorge De La Rosa, and suitable middle-to-back-end options in Tyler Chatwood and Juan Nicasio. In June, they selected Jonathan Grey with the third overall pick in the draft. You heard it here first: Jonathan Grey is going to be really freaking good in the Major Leagues by 2014.
An upgrade at second might not be a priority for Colorado this offseason, but they’d certainly be in the market for Kendrick’s services. Eddie Butler has huge upside on the mound, Chad Bettis has been passable out of the Major League rotation, and Tyler Matzek has walked fewer people this season in Double-A. The young, near MLB-ready pitching is there for the Rockies to pursue trades for talent outside the system. This team will also have options at second base in the free agent market, giving them lots of flexibility with how they can approach their offseason.
Detroit Tigers | Current 2B: Omar Infante
Infante will reach free agency after this season, and should be among the top second basemen on the free agent market. Detroit’s budget seems to have similar expansion patterns to our universe, so a multi-year extension for the 31-year-old Infante doesn’t seem unrealistic, but the market might be willing to pay Infante more than the Tigers.
At first glance, Detroit doesn’t seem like a great trade fit for the Angels. Their desirable prospects are outfielder Nick Castellanos, late-inning reliever Bruce Rondon, Low-A starter Jake Thompson, and 2013 top draft Jonathon Crawford. Castellanos used to play a fine third base before the Tigers moved him to the outfield. (Miguel Cabrera plays third for them, so yeah.) His high offensive ceiling could make him a strong trade target for the Angels, especially in tandem with one of the Tigers’ three top pitching prospects. It’d be a pretty hefty haul, and seems unlikely given Infante’s presence, but Detroit could be a viable trade partner.
New York Yankees | Current 2B: Robinson Cano
The development of the Robinson Cano market will be my favorite story line of the offseason. I envision a bidding war between the Yankees and the Dodgers, and I’d guess that the Yankees will eventually allow their best player to walk away. Either way, there’s going to be a loser in this hypothetical bidding war, and that loser will be among the top bidders for Kendrick’s services.
I’m not a fan of too many Yankees starting pitching prospects. Rafael De Paula‘s stuff comes and goes and Jose Ramirez is probably a reliever. Bryan Mitchell is the most interesting arm in their system to me, but he’s not exactly knocking on the door. The Yankees have plenty of young relief pitching in Danny Burawa, Tommy Kahnle, Fred Lewis, and Dellin Betances, but relief pitching is relief pitching, not starting pitching. (You heard it here first!) A trade is possible, but it seems more likely that the Angels find a better package elsewhere.
According to Baseball Prospectus, Kendrick has the right to block trades to six different clubs in 2014, meaning that his market could have different restrictions than we’re aware of.