Name: Howie Kendrick
Position: Second Base
Team: Los Angeles Angels
2012 Opening Day age: 28
Contract: Entering final arbitration year
Service time: 5+ years
Howie Kendrick is a great all-around player but his best tool is by far his bat, though the results haven't really shown up as expected. As he ascended the ranks of the Angels farm system, 70-plus grades were placed on his bat, with many considering him a possible future batting champion. The statistics were staggering, bordering upon ridiculous -- Kendrick was a career .360 hitter in the minor leagues. This wasn't a sample size issue either -- that batting average came across 1618 minor league at-bats. While he hasn't translated that success to the major leagues, he's still hitting a highly respectable .293 for his career. Kendrick has a 50 power tool to go with his 70-ish bat, which has resulted in consistent 10-20 home run seasons. He's a strong base runner as well, as evident by his 10-15 stolen bases every year. In terms of defense, Kendrick is rated as baseball's best second baseman in 2011, and has been well above average every year except 2010 according to advanced defensive metrics.
531 AB, .286/.339/.467 (.806 OPS), 30 2B, 6 3B, 18 HR, 63 RBI, 14 SB, 32/116 BB/K
Why Toronto would want him:
It is no secret that Toronto has no MLB-calibre second baseman under contract for the 2012 season, and the free agent market is extremely thin. Kelly Johnson is probably the most likely candidate, however if he declines arbitration and signs elsewhere, Toronto will have a glaring need. Kendrick would cost a couple of good prospects but he would be a monstrous upgrade over anyone Toronto has fielded since Aaron Hill in his huge season (though Kendrick's 5.9 WAR 2011 still exceeds Hill's 4.1 WAR 2009). Howie Kendrick could hit 6th or 7th in the lineup, in a position where he could drive in runs with his plus bat and power. While he is entering his final year of arbitration, his 2012 salary should still be a manageable figure in the 5-6M range. Toronto could (and should) seek an extension with Kendrick if they were to acquire him, but even if they aren't able to reach a deal they could offer him arbitration as he entered free agency and receive draft pick compensation, as Kendrick currently profiles as a Type-A free agent (and barring a collapse in 2012 would retain that status).
Why Los Angeles might trade him:
The reasons the Angels might trade Kendrick is a rather short list, and they have nothing to do with talent. While the Angels have deep pockets, they have a lot of veterans under long-term contracts already and have some good positional players coming through the system. The biggest question for Los Angeles will be whether or not they want to lock up yet another position player and continue to block top prospects. The Angels have first base (Trumbo, Morales?) and shortstop (Aybar) locked up as well as Maicer Izturis who is cheap and capable of playing any infield position. On the farm, they have a future stud second baseman in Jean Segura (57th on Baseball America's 2011 Top 100) and a potential solid third baseman in Kaleb Cowart. Despite having a ton of outfield depth, Kendrick is already playing some left field for the Angels, possibly indicating they are making room for Segura within the next year. If Los Angeles feel Segura is the real deal, they may not be comfortable locking up Kendrick, and could make him available for trade over the winter.