Dodgers bring back Howie Kendrick on team-friendly deal

Something that was brought up this morning by Ken Rosenthal (and Mike wrote about it) now looks like it’s happening.

Yes, the Dodgers are bringing Howie Kendrick back, and they’re getting a hell of a deal: 2 years, $20 million. This is after he turned down the 1-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer.

I wrote about how I thought the Chase Utley/Enrique Hernandez platoon should have been good enough for second base.

“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.”

I still believe that. And there was still the possibility of Micah Johnson being a contributor at second base. But getting Kendrick back on a 2/20 deal is quite a steal.

Admittedly, the biggest reason I wanted Kendrick to sign elsewhere is because of the supplemental round draft pick the Dodgers would acquire if he had signed elsewhere (the Diamondbacks had shown the most interest, while the Nationals did before signing Daniel Murphy). Instead, the Dodgers have only three picks in the Top 36 picks of the draft. What a shame.

Kendrick, 32, is coming off a season in which he was very Kendrick-like: .295/.336/.409, 109 wRC+, 2.1 WAR. If he can do at least that for the next two seasons, the Dodgers will have gotten plenty of value out of this deal. It’d also mitigate the loss of the draft pick.

It remains to be seen how Kendrick is used. He was the clear starter last season, but he is also coming off a season in which he suffered another lower-body injury. Perhaps more days off for him in 2016 could do him some good. And the Dodgers have the depth to do something like that.

Utley is going to be the primary backup, with Hernandez being third on the depth chart. Utley can also be the backup at first- and third base. Hernandez is now freed up to be the primary backup at shortstop, center field … and third base.

Yes, Hernandez looks like the primary backup to Justin Turner at third. At least, it makes the most sense. Turner hit .248/.339/.413 against left-handers in 2015. He was much better than that in 2014, but Hernandez, as mentioned above, destroys left-handers. Turner has destroyed right-handers the last two seasons. Hernandez could give Turner a day or two off per week at third base when a lefty is on the hill, because it would be nice to get Hernandez some work against right-handers (you know, just in case he’s needed elsewhere later in the season). He could also give Corey Seager a rest at times at shortstop. I see Trayce Thompson being the primary backup in center field (if not immediately, eventually), which would allow Hernandez to remain on the infield.

We’ll see how things play out. The Dodgers have incredible depth — more than any team in baseball. This should come into play with some older players at other positions, injury-prone players and players who struggled at points in 2015.

The Dodgers needed some infield depth. Kendrick, technically, fits that bill. His re-signing allows Utley and Hernandez to be true bench options, while also strengthening the Dodgers’ lineup. He also spells the end for Alex Guerrero on the active roster (I mean, this has to be it, right?).

The name of the game this season will be depth. When someone gets hurt, it won’t be as devastating as it was in years past. I know this hasn’t been the sexiest of offseasons, but this team will contend for the pennant, again, as it has the last three years. Hopefully the outcome is different this time around.

Welcome back, Howie. Please be good.

About Dustin Nosler

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Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin' Kinda Blue. He co-hosted a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He was a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times and True Blue LA. He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in digital media. While at CSUS, he worked for the student-run newspaper The State Hornet for three years, culminating with a 1-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, Calif.