Howie Kendrick is drawing the most trade interest among Angels players this winter, which is hardly a surprise.
The 31-year-old second baseman has been one of baseball’s most consistent hitters for years and is coming off a highly productive 2014 season in which he hit .293 with seven homers, 33 doubles and 75 runs batted in.
He’s a solid defender with one year and $9.5 million left on the four-year, $33.5-million deal he signed before 2012, and as the saying goes in a sport filled with so many multi-year, mega-million-dollar deals that teams often come to regret, there’s no such thing as a bad one-year contract.
Kendrick could be this winter’s version of Mark Trumbo, the Angels player who would garner the most return in a trade and who is somewhat expendable — the Angels have two potential in-house replacements at second base in Grant Green and Gordon Beckham.
But General Manager Jerry Dipoto does not seem extremely eager to trade Kendrick.
“I’m not going to lie to you and say we haven’t talked to clubs about Howie and that we haven’t received phone calls on him, but right now, we’re not in a position where we feel we need to move him,” Dipoto said.
“He’s a critical part of our offense, and he helps us go. He’s been a lifelong Angel. We’re looking to be as good as we can be in 2015 and beyond. We’ll take advantage of opportunities, but we’re not out there actively trying to move Howie.”
The Angels traded Trumbo, the power-hitting first baseman, to Arizona last winter in a three-team deal that netted two young starting pitchers, Tyler Skaggs and Hector Santiago.
With veteran starting pitchers Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson two years away from free agency, the Angels entered the winter thinking they might net a similar haul in a deal for Kendrick. But the Hank Conger trade that netted young right-hander Nick Tropeano from Houston has dulled their desire to move Kendrick.
The Angels could use Kendrick to acquire a veteran starter to boost the 2015 rotation—Washington right-handers Jordan Zimmerman and Doug Fister, both free agents after 2015, have been mentioned as possible candidates—and a much-needed utility man who can play shortstop.
But with the 2015 rotation appearing set with Weaver, Wilson, Garrett Richards, Matt Shoemaker and Santiago, the Angels have a greater need for young, cost-controlled starters who could compete for rotation spots in 2016 and beyond.
And the loss of Kendrick could leave a bigger void than most think. Remember, he spent most of September as the team’s cleanup batter and was a key contributor on a club that finished with a major league-best 98-64 record.
“The only way we would move him is if we become a better club,” Dipoto said, “and it would take a heck of a deal for us to feel like we’re a better club by moving Howie.”