A quiet winter meetings for the Angels got loud in a hurry late Wednesday night when the club traded veteran second baseman Howie Kendrick to the Dodgers for promising left-hander Andrew Heaney, who had been acquired from the Miami Marlins earlier in the day.
Within an hour of that trade, the Angels acquired Kendrick's possible replacement, sending hard-throwing pitching prospect Jairo Diaz to the Colorado Rockies for utility infielder Josh Rutledge.
There was no cash exchanged in the one-for-one Kendrick-Heaney deal, which will trim Kendrick's $9.5 million from the 2015 payroll and boost the depth of an organization that for years has had a shortage of high-end starting pitching prospects.
Heaney, 23, was considered one of the top pitching prospects in baseball heading into 2014. A first-round pick (ninth overall) out of Oklahoma State in 2012, Heaney pitched in seven major league games this year and was 0-3 with a 5.83 earned-run average.
The 6-foot-2, 185-pound Heaney, who features a fastball that sits in the 92-mph range, a slider and changeup, pitched in 24 games between double A and triple A this year and was 9-6 with a 3.28 ERA with 143 strikeouts and 36 walks in 137 1/3 innings.
“Andrew is a premium prospect who is just starting to cut his teeth in the major leagues,” General Manager Jerry Dipoto said of Heaney, who will compete for a rotation spot next spring. “He's a really polished left-hander who we feel has a chance to pitch up in our rotation.”
While the deal will fortify the Angels' pitching staff and save a big chunk of money, it will leave a considerable hole at second base and in the lineup and break up one of baseball's longest-tenured double-play combinations of Kendrick and shortstop Erick Aybar.
Kendrick, who has been with the Angels organization since he was drafted in 2002, has been one of the team's most consistent hitters for eight years, with a .292 career average, 78 home runs, 249 doubles and 501 runs batted in over nine years.
Kendrick, who will be a free agent after 2015, hit .293 with seven home runs, 33 doubles, 85 runs and 75 RBIs this year, helping the Angels win the American League West, and he spent most of September in the cleanup spot in place of the injured and struggling Josh Hamilton.
“It will be difficult to replace Howie, he's been one of the more productive offensive players in the league at his position,” Dipoto said. “We just felt like with one year of control of Howie as a pending free agent, compared to six years of control with Andrew Heaney, it was impossible to walk away from a left-handed starter who has top-of-the-rotation upside.”
Grant Green will contend for the second base job, and the Angels had been trying to re-sign free-agent Gordon Beckham, who was not tendered a contract in November.
Rutledge, 25, has hit .259 with 19 home runs and 89 RBIs in 266 games over three seasons in the major leagues, and has played second base, shortstop and third base.
Dipoto said he will look for opportunities to upgrade at second base, but he won't necessarily use the savings from Kendrick's contract to wade into the free-agent market and pursue a high-end pitcher such as Max Scherzer.
“If we've made our last move of the off-season,” he said, “we'll be perfectly fine with that.”