When Andrew Friedman began his second offseason as Los Angeles Dodgers President of Baseball Operations, there was every expectation that his front office wouldn’t even consider re-signing Howie Kendrick after trading for the second baseman a year before. However, very little has gone as expected for Friedman and his associates this winter, and Kendrick’s free agency saga was no different. As the winter wore on, the former All-Star remained on the market as the crowded free-agent class took much longer to thin out than anticipated.
Los Angeles at first seemed unwilling to budge, especially with general manager Farhan Ziadi’s publicly stated confidence in Enrique Hernandez and Chase Utley to hold down second base and the Dodgers’ reported preference to gain another compensatory draft pick if Kendrick went elsewhere. They also acquired second baseman Micah Johnson in a mid-December trade with the Chicago White Sox.
However, many fans and writers seemed to doubt that a platoon of Hernandez, a utilityman with a .247 career batting average against right-handers, and Utley, who is far past his prime, would be a suitable replacement for the consistent Kendrick. There were also concerns about how Johnson’s defense would hold up on a regular basis. Forbes blogger Howard Cole summed it up one of his multiple columns begging the Dodgers to re-sign the veteran:
It wasn’t just (Utley’s).212/.286/.343 line in 2015, alarming as that was. It’s the .221/.289/.366 in 308 plate appearances versus right-hand pitching at age 36, after managing a .286/.344/.430 vs. RHP at 35. Translation: he fell off a cliff at 13 seasons. It happens.
Kendrick, 32, who’s supposedly a problem vs. righties going forward, hit .297/.338/.415 against them last season, which is almost identical to his career .291/.330/.413 mark in such spots.
Whether or not the front office listened, it appears they had a change of heart. The Dodgers are officially bring back their second baseman, according to MLB Network’s Ken Rosenthal and Jon Heyman:
Sources: #Dodgers, Kendrick in agreement on two-year contract, pending physical.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) January 29, 2016
Kendrick gets $20M, 2-yr deal #dodgers
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) January 29, 2016
Chris Cotillo of SB Nation added that Kendrick’s deal contains no opt-outs or player/team options. Rosenthal had reported in the morning that the Dodgers were pushing for Kendrick, and ace Clayton Kershaw later told local reporters during a team visit to the L.A. City Council that, “Howie’s still in the mix.” Heyman had added that the Arizona Diamondbacks, who up to today had seemed to be Kendrick’s most likely suitor, still liked the second baseman, perhaps prompting their division rival to get the deal done. Although Arizona GM Dave Stewart told the media that he didn’t want to give the Dodgers another draft pick on top of the one they got for Zack Greinke, Baseball Essential’s Robert Murray later reported that the D-Backs were trying to trade second baseman Aaron Hill. The move would have presumably opened up a spot for Kendrick.
Now that the Dodgers have re-signed Kendrick, it will be interesting to see how they shuffle Hernandez and Utley. LA could be facing a hole at third base to begin the season as starter Justin Turner recovers from knee surgery. Both players have limited experience at third base, and could pitch in until Turner is fully healthy. New manager Dave Roberts could also temporarily move Corey Seager to third, with Hernandez taking his place at shortstop.