With the trade season slowly but surely coming into view the internet is bound to explode with an ocean of trade musings. Some of them valid, some of them creatively interesting, but most of them shallow and uneducated. This just comes with the territory of the trade deadline, everyone seems to enjoy playing armchair GM even though many couldn't tell you the difference between actual tradeable prospects like the Luis Jimenez's and C.J Cron's of the world. Most of the time you'll get plenty of "Minor League Player X and barely serviceable Major League player for a Top Dog A!". All us educated baseball thinkers are exempt from this status when you're educated to the point where we can devise intuitive and manageable trades with our knowledge of teams minor league systems, contract status', and teams actual willingness to trade a player. Taking all of this into account I've been pondering who the Angels most tradeable and realistic chip is, excluding the minor league system because that's a whole other ball game. Usually when you want to devise trades you have to look at what minor leaguers will be packaged and tons of other semantics we won't go into. Today we're just going to look at which Angels player on the big league roster is the most attractive trade chip.
This player is easily Howie Kendrick. Why? Well for starters, he's an All-Star caliber second baseman with a very good glove (though it tends to fluctuate at times) and an above average bat. He doesn't have power for days, but he can drive a ball hard into the gap and even launch one out of the park if he can get the right pitch. Problem is he has trouble selecting his pitches, shown by 110+ K's while walking no more than 33 times in a season dating back to 2011. While he does have his problems with plate discipline he still has the ability to hit the ball consistently and get on base, noted by his ability to keep his batting average above .279 over the course of his career. The biggest problem by far is his tendency to ground into absolutely back-breaking double plays, every Angel fan in the world can tell you he is the most unclutch hitter on the team by far. It's really bad, I don't need to drive the point home for you since you're a fan yourself if you're reading this.
Now, even through those troubles he experiences at the plate he is still a well above average second baseman, arguably top 5 in the AL. With the position the Angels are in right now selling a bit at the trade deadline would work wonders for the near future of the ball club. I'm not calling for a fire sale now, but what I would love to see is for Dipoto to pull a Dipoto move. Remember what he did with the Angels in getting Joe Saunders, Tyler Skaggs, and Patrick Corbin for Dan Haren when he worked with the D'Backs? Not only did they get a serviceable lefty to pitch in the major league rotation, but they got top prospects who are absolutely killing the league now. Patrick Corbin is currently making rookie history with the D'Backs, and Skaggs is no slouch either. Dipoto can pull a move like that with Kendrick, trading him away for big prospects that will pull in a huge return in the near future.
What makes Kendrick so easily tradeable, so easy to build a package around is his insanely team friendly contract. He'll be paid less than $10 million per year through 2015 when we live in a day and age where players like him could command up to $15 million. It is worth noting that he has a no-trade clause that allows him to block a deal to 12 teams this season, but history has shown those clauses are seldom an actual impediment to a trade. While it is not exactly a long-term contract, it gives the acquiring team a few years in his prime to play with and even work out a contract extension if he plays well for his new team. This is very much like Dan Haren coming from Arizona to Anaheim as he only had a couple years left on his contract coming to a contender; though in this case the Angels still have a shot at winning whereas the D'Backs were pretty much done with their season. It's very possible the Angels could swing a trade for a top major league player like Cliff Lee with a Kendrick package, but that defeats the purpose of the trade in my mind. The whole point of this is to get players to reinvigorate the club a year or two from the line, building a package around Kendrick will just damage the club in the way the Greinke deal seriously hurt the team. This is aside from the point but I don't blame Dipoto for that at all, Jean Segura had no shot at playing with the Angels since Aybar was freshly extended. I do, however, blame him for extending Aybar as I was dying for him to walk and Segura come up and do his thing with the Angels. It's all different in hindsight, I know, but wouldn't you guys like me just a little more if I GM'ed for the Angels in 2012?
Howie Kendrick is an enigma in Anaheim, he is loved by most fans for his strong ability to play defense and hit the ball well (when he isn't throwing away AB's or killing the team with a double play); but at the same time his deficiencies make him hated at times by the fans. Losing him for the future of the team wouldn't be the worst thing in the world, even though our minor league system is so trashed there isn't much we can do to replace him. I was thinking the Angels could bring back Luis Jimenez, the fan favorite who exploded in Anaheim before cooling off hard and being sent back down to AAA just a month ago. He could take over at third base while Alberto Callaspo shifts over to second base, his primary position coming up through the minors.
The Angels could let Lucho man third and Callaspo second until young prospects like Taylor Lindsey or Alex Yarbrough are ready to take over at the keyston a few years from now, that is if Dipoto doesn't nab a young second baseman in a potential Kendrick deal. I'd rather he send Kendrick somewhere we can get quality pitching in return, the Angels starting rotation will be a dead zone in a few years unless they can bring in some heavy prospects who can take over once Weaver starts a real decline and C.J is on the tail end of his contract. I'd like to see the Angels extend or resign Vargas for the sake of long term protection and with his recent play this isn't really an out there idea.
I know a lot of you are instantly turned off by the idea of selling, especially with an established player like Howie, but for the future of the club it could be incredibly beneficial. His contract and status as a top second baseman would make him a very attractive trade piece to teams looking to contend this season and beyond. Dipoto is an absolute trade wizard, you saw what he did with Dan Haren getting Corbin and Skaggs and then pulling Frieri out of nowhere for Alexi Amarista, as much as I loved the little guy. The Angels offense won't be dying without Kendrick, the presence of Trout and Trumbo and even Pujols and Hamilton more than make up for what we'd be losing in Kendrick; and it's a very real possibility Luis Jimenez could fill in seamlessly for Kendrick offensively.
I'm not saying think about it, I'm just saying to be ready when Dipoto swings a trade for Kendrick for top prospects. It might not feel so tasty now, but in a year or two when the Angels are pulling tricks with some beast youngsters they got out of the trade don't be so surprised. You heard it from here first.
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Big mistake if they trade Howie. He's one of the top 2B in the league with a very team friendly contract. All the Angels really have to do to improve their pitching for next season is extend Vargas, non-tender Hanson, and keep Blanton in middle relief, while at the same time looking for better pieces to fill in those holes. All the Halos had to do this winter was sign Kyle Lohse instead of Blanton. Luis Jiminez wiil never be anything more than a back up infielder, btw. The entire starting lineup is locked at least through 2015, so they will likely pursue pitching via both free agency and trades. Cron, Cowart, Jiminez, Conger, Calhoun (when healthy), Kohn, etc. are all tradeable, and I think the Halos will likely be buyers even if they're out of contention. There's really nowhere for their offensive prospects to go besides the trade market. So I think Howie is here to stay.
If I'm trading Howie, I'm looking at a team like the Twins or Orioles. Why not send Howie and/or Cron to the Twins for RHP Jose Berrios and 2B Eddie Rosario? You include Cron and you could probably pluck away another decent player but Rosario could potentially take over 2nd base in a couple years and Berrios looks like he could be a solid pitcher going forward. I don't believe in a fire sale necessarily but I think Howie, Downs, and MAYBE Iannetta or Callaspo could be traded to help replenish the farm system. Let's add some pitching to the latest addition to the organization Hunter Green!
While Kendrick might appeal to other teams, this probably isn't happening. The entire starting lineup is signed through next season. Clearly, they are going to try one more time with this squad before they even think of blowing it up. The Angels have also proven time and time again to never be sellers. It's one thing to have a losing team but once you start selling off star players, that's when people REALLY stop coming to the ballpark. I submit recent attendance numbers of the Houston Astros and the Miami Marlins as evidence.
Finally, truth be told, the Angels don't have a viable replacement at 3B (or 2B). This idea that Lucho is a viable replacement is far-fetched. His OPS+ was 52...FIFTY-TWO...in 72 PAs this year. Scouts have never been sold on Lucho, at 25 his upside is limited. He's a fringe-role player at best.
I would have to disagree and say that Howie is one of our most clutch players on the team this year. He has been on a tear this year and shouldn't go anywear.