On the morning of the first game of the National League Championship Series, Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts sent a text message to veteran Howie Kendrick. Roberts wanted to know where Kendrick preferred to play that night, either second base, the position he had played for the previous decade, or left field, the position he learned in 2016.
Kendrick chose left field, an interesting decision, given the team’s stance on his potential role in 2017.
“I think some of it was just the limited reps he got during the season,” Dodgers General Manager Farhan Zaidi said at the general managers’ meetings. “Once he got comfortable in left, it was a little tougher for him to move back and forth. But I think if he came into camp as the second baseman, I don’t think he’d have any issues.”
After Andre Ethier broke his leg last March, Kendrick replaced him in the outfield. The team utilized Chase Utley as the primary second baseman. But with Ethier coming back and Utley cut loose in free agency, Kendrick could return to second.
The Dodgers are prioritizing finding a closer and a third baseman in free agency, but they could also pursue second baseman Neil Walker or attempt a trade for a player like Detroit’s Ian Kinsler. But Zaidi indicated the club felt comfortable using Kendrick as the starter.
The Dodgers owe Kendrick $10 million for next season, the second half a two-year deal he signed after finding a limited market as a free agent after 2015. He finished 2016 with a career-worst .691 on-base plus slugging percentage.
While admitting to “gerrymandering” to make his case, Zaidi citied Kendrick’s putrid April as the source of his woes. Kendrick posted a .333 OPS in April and a .734 OPS for the rest of the season. From 2013 to 2015, his OPS was .754.
“He got off to a slow start, and there were some concerns,” Zaidi said. “But the way he ended the season, that’s more what you would expect, given the ebb and flow of the season, having hot and cold streaks. And he had great at-bats in the playoffs. That’s not a concern for us at all.
“Coming into camp as the second baseman, if the off-season plays out that way, I don’t think that would be an issue.”
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