Howie Kendrick, still out there. Still available, if not more available than ever.
The Dodgers bid adieu to Kendrick after the 2015 season, or so they thought. They had Enrique Hernandez and re-signed Chase Utley for a whopping $7 million to share duties at second base. General Manager Farhan Zaidi said they were comfortable with the duo and had moved past Kendrick.
Kendrick had turned down the team’s $15.8-million qualifying offer, understandably assuming greater rewards waited in free agency.
Only here we are, three days from February with camps soon to open, and Kendrick is still unsigned. And as suggested here a month ago, the Dodgers are now apparently revisiting the idea of bringing Kendrick back.
Fox Sports’ Ken Rostenthal tweeted that the Dodgers are again considering Kendrick and making progress in negotiations. He more recently tweeted they have actually agreed to a two-year deal.
The Dodgers’ lineup absolutely looks weaker without Kendrick, who batted in the middle of the order all season. In 117 games, he finished with a .295/.336/.486 slash line and was third on the team with 54 RBIs.
Kendrick, 32, understandably figured he was in line for a big contract, but the market after Daniel Murphy and Ben Zobrist never developed for middle infielders. Both Kendrick and Ian Desmond remain unsigned.
Which has given the Dodgers unexpected opportunity.
They may be able to sign him for less money at a shorter term than expected. He might be perfect for one of those contracts that permits him to opt out after one year, though it’s doubtful the Dodgers would again give him a qualifying offer.
But the Dodgers could use another infielder. In theory, Kendrick and Utley could be something of a platoon at second while freeing Hernandez to back up Justin Turner at third; Utley has also played some limited third base. Turner is coming off knee surgery and the Dodgers do not figure to be eager to play him more regularly than last season, when he seldom played more than three consecutive days.
If Kendrick were to sign with another team, the Dodgers would receive a sandwich draft pick. At this point, however, there is no guarantee another team is willing to forfeit a pick. The Diamondbacks reportedly have been in discussions with Kendrick, but they already lost their first pick to the Dodgers for signing Zack Greinke.
Kendrick was solid at the plate, on the field and in the clubhouse for the Dodgers. They would be a better team with him on it.
Not their original plan, but things change. And the smart teams change with them.
Follow Steve Dilbeck on Twitter @stevedilbeck