2016 Fantasy Baseball: Dodgers Re-sign Howie Kendrick
Howie Kendrick has spent the entirety of this major league career representing the city of Los Angeles. After debuting with the Angels back in 2006, Kendrick became a staple at second base for the ballclub until he was dealt across town to the Dodgers a year before free agency. Kendrick hit the open market for the first time this offseason at the age of 32 years-old, and after yet another very productive season, he seemed poised to have a myriad of offers and potential landing spots with a good handful of MLB teams in need of a reliable second baseman.
Kendrick has been a model of consistency since roughly 2007 when he became the Angels primary option as the starting second baseman. He has yet to deviate very far from his lifetime .293 batting average and has only hit under .280 one time thus far in his career. Kendrick seemed like a lock for at least a four-year contract so naturally, he declined the Dodgers 1-year, $15.8MM qualifying offer and decided to test the uncharted waters of free agency.
As the offseason unfolded, and teams like the Washington Nationals decided to go in other directions to fill their middle infield needs, a reunion between Kendrick and his most recent LA organization seemed more and more likely. Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal first reported on Friday that the Dodgers and Kendrick had agreed to a two-year contract which ended up being worth around $20MM in guaranteed money. The deal to bring Howie Kendrick back into the fold is well below what most analysts were predicting the veteran second baseman would receive, and the move also relinquishes the Dodgers hopes of deepening their farm system with a compensation pick they would have gotten had Kendrick signed elsewhere, so it remains to be seen just how this deal will affect the organization going forward.
I wrote about the Dodgers somewhat messy offseason in a previous article when they signed left handed pitcher Scott Kazmir, but it appears that a clear plan of action is finally falling into place with this move in particular. Kendrick is slated to regain his starting job as the team’s second baseman moving the would-be platoon of Chase Utley and Enrique Hernandez back to the bench. This makes the Dodgers’ depth a position of strength, as they can now use Utley to spell Justin Turner at third base more frequently, and Hernandez for Corey Seager at shortstop or Joc Pederson in center field. This will allow the Dodgers to keep their hitters fresh so they will be more effective in supporting the team’s strong starting rotation.
The depth on LA’s bench also gives the club the chance to give Kendrick the extra rest he may need as he spent a portion of 2015 on the disabled list. Kendrick’s age, along with his injury history, is likely the reason most teams shied away from signing him to a longer-term deal;. However, there is really no reason to believe that a decline in his production is coming over the life of this new contract.
Aside from a slight dip in his defensive metrics, Howie Kendrick has been remarkably consistent as an above-average big leaguer and has seen no real changes in his production at the plate. At a historically light-hitting position, Kendrick has a career slashline of .293/.333/.423, and even in a hurt year last season, he still posted an OPS of .742. He’s only found himself below league-average at the plate one time since 2009, and even that season his 99 OPS+ was just shy of the league-average mark of 100. With nine long balls in 117 games in 2015, Kendrick could easily reach double digits in his home run total in 2016 as well as being a lock for over 150 hits if he stays healthy.
There is nothing in Kendrick’s approach at the plate that forecasts a dip in production this coming season either. He’s never been a player with an impressive walk-rate, but Kendrick is not they type of guy to try and play outside of his game, and has kept a steady contact percentage and chase rate from year to year. Unless there is a drastic change in Kendrick’s plate discipline in 2016, it is a safe bet to say that he will replicate what he did in 2015 with the Dodgers and will once again be a solid offensive second baseman.