As we have discussed on this site, we are going to look at some options for the Tigers this off-season that could potentially be in play for David Dombrowski and staff. While there will be a lot of focus on the free agent market, I wanted to take a look at some guys that might be available in the trade market.
One of the Tigers biggest needs, depending on their belief that Ramon Santiago could handle the job full time, is to find an everyday 2nd baseman. I personally like Ramon, but I don’t believe he is an everyday player, and think this may be the weakest position on this team, along with 3rd base.
Today, I am going to take a look at Howie Kendrick.
Kendrick, who is 28 years old, and will turn 29 in July next season is coming off the best year of his career. He was a first time All-Star, and finished the season with 5.8 WAR according to Fangraphs. His WAR put him slightly behind Brandon Phillips, and slightly ahead of Robinson Cano. Not bad company to be in.
Kendrick does a little bit of everything. He hits for pretty good average at .292 for his career. He showed good pop last year for a middle infielder, hitting 18 home runs, and posting an OPS of .802. His wOBA of .349 was 7th in all of baseball for 2nd baseman, and this is from a guy that doesn’t walk much. Defensively, Kendrick is an above average defender most years, and last year he put together his best season defensively so far. Kendrick is also coming into his prime, suggesting that the jump in power numbers could be what we can expect going forward from him. He also runs well, stealing 14 bases last season, and has the ability to handle the bat.
Kendrick has a couple of issues as a player, mainly his plate discipline numbers. Kendrick’s BB rate and K rate aren’t what you would look for from a top of the order hitter. His trade-off for the extra power he showed last year was a high K rate of 20.4% of his plate appearances, and just walked in 5.7% of them. Not only that, the highest WAR he posted previous to last year was 2.5, which is right around an average player. So, you would be gambling on a guy who has just posted one well above average season.
His contract status is potentially another negative. 2012 is Kendrick’s last arbitration year, and he could be due 7M plus this season, and then he becomes a free agent in 2013. If the Tigers were to trade for Kendrick, they would be gambling that they are going to be able to sign him to an extension. They may not want to trade a commodity for a guy coming off of a career year, that may want to test free agency. Essentially, he would be a buy high option at this point, and there may not be value there for the Tigers to do a deal for Kendrick.
This is a tough one to ascertain. On one hand, Kendrick, gives the Angels something they desperately need, and that is a little bit of pop in that lineup. With a team that struggles to score runs, the Angels wouldn’t part quickly or for chump change with one of their best offensive players. However, the Angels do have plenty of infield options, and with Kendry Morales potentially coming back, they may move Mark Trumbo to 3rd base, leaving Erick Aybar, Maicer Izturis, and Alberto Callaspo to man the middle positions.
The Angels payroll is also another factor here. They are already around 120M or so, and if owner Artie Moreno wants to stay around 140M like he was this past season, they could be a player in the free agent market. The Angels typically aren’t shy about throwing money around and guys like Aramis Ramirez, Jose Reyes, and Jimmy Rollins are being mentioned. That could make a guy like Kendrick who is due a raise and extension available.
I like Kendrick as a player, and I am one who thinks that the 2011 version of Kendrick is the one that we will see going forward. That being said, I don’t think he is a fit for the Tigers. Kendrick’s career OBP of .329, while not horrible, isn’t what the Tigers need in their lineup. The Tigers need a guy getting on base in front of guys like Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez. On top of that, his contract situation and coming off of a career year, means the Tigers aren’t likely to get great value here.
If the Tigers are still in need of a 2nd baseman at the All-Star break next year, and Kendrick is available, he may be a better fit then. But for now, until his value drops, they should probably stay away.
What do you all think of Kendrick as a Tiger?