General manager Farhan Zaidi has already publicly stated the Dodgers are set at second base with Chase Utley and Enrique Hernandez. Fans and others wonder whether bringing Howie Kendrick back would be a prudent move. I tend to side with Zaidi and the front office on this one.
A healthy Utley platooning with a destroyer of lefties like Hernandez could provide better production than what Kendrick provided in 2015, when he was about a league-average player at 2.1 wins above replacement. His 109 wRC+ was slightly above-average, but his defense suffered substantially. While the metrics are far from the be-all, end-all, there is a little merit to them, especially considering he’s a 32-year-old second baseman with a history of lower-body injuries. I’m reasonably confident the combination of Utley and Hernandez could post comparable offensive numbers and better defensive numbers.
Utley stands to benefit from playing in a strict platoon. He hasn’t been great against left-handed hitters in recent years, and I could see him being Andre Ethier-lite as the Dodgers’ second baseman in a best-case-scenario. Realistically, if he’s close to league-average, that would be just fine. His overall numbers could look better if he isn’t playing against same-handed pitching. With Hernandez’s ability to rip lefties (.423/.471/.744, 234 wRC+), the Dodgers can afford to have a second base platoon.
The biggest reason letting Kendrick goes makes sense is the draft pick compensation. The Dodgers already have picks 22, 30 and 36 right now. When Kendrick signs, they’ll also get a pick in the 30-35 range (I’m just not sure which one). Despite fumbling the first two picks in the 2015 draft, the front office has shown it puts a premium on selections and having four picks in the Top 36 would be quite a coup for one of baseball’s best farm systems.
Oh, and there’s no room for Kendrick. There simply isn’t a realistic roster spot for him as things stand right now. When Utley was acquired in August, he was done so as a late-season addition who was more of an insurance option more than anything. Now, he has re-signed for $7 million and is slated to be the team’s starter at second base against right-handed pitchers (at least, for as long as he’s effective).
This is what the Dodgers’ bench could look like come opening day:
That’s five spots already, not even including Austin Barnes, Alex Guerrero (lol), Micah Johnson (also a second baseman) and the inevitable “intriguing non-roster invitee.” Re-signing Kendrick and making Utley a $7 million pinch-hitter doesn’t strike me as the best allocation of resources. I’m guessing Guerrero goes before opening day and is replaced by someone who can play the infield competently, because outside of Hernandez, there isn’t a backup infielder of those players listed above. That player may not even be in the organization yet.
While Kendrick could bounce back and be a healthier, better player in 2016, I wouldn’t expect that to be with the Dodgers. He just doesn’t really fit on the roster anymore. But he will find employment somewhere. If Daniel Murphy got a 3-year deal while having draft pick compensation attached to him, Kendrick should also be able to land a similar deal.