With Kendrick and Aybar on the Trading Block, What Would be a Fair Return?
With the Angels loss yesterday, the fell to 13 games back in the division and 8.5 games out of the second wild card spot. Stick a fork in it, this season is done. Also with the loss yesterday, “sources” came crawling out of their respective crawl spaces to give the low down to writers in prominent positions than I as to where the Angels stand with the deadline a mere two days away. The common consensus: The Angels have finally tipped, and are selling. At least, that is what Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports said in a tweet after yesterday’s game.
Open. For. Business. And all it took was for Albert Pujols to finally hit the disabled list. But it might be a decision that has come to late in the trading game. Might be. Last year, 11 deals were struck on deadline day before the 1 PM PST cutoff. So just because Jerry Dipoto has waited until now to put the “Everything Must Go” sign on the window, doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s waited too long.
But it begs the question(s): What would be a fair return for both Howie Kendrick and Erick Aybar? Who needs a second baseman? Who needs a shortstop? Who needs extra pickles on a cheeseburger? The short answers? The Pirates, the Cardinals and me. Pickles are delicious, even if they do kind of smell like body order.
Most contending teams are already set when it comes to middle infielders. And this is because the offensive bar for up the middle players is set lower than that of corner spots. But if you have an middle of the diamond player who is no slouch with glove and provides positive offensive value, you are ahead of the game. Howie has developed into a steady fielder at second, and in case you haven’t noticed, is routinely among the top-five second basemen (offensively) in the American League. He falls out of bed valuable.
The Pirates currently own the second best record in the National League, and are 3.5 games up in the Wild Card. The only problem for them in the standings is, the team with the best record in the National league, is the Cardinals.
Neil Walker has been the main second baseman this season for the Buccos, and has posted a slash line of .244/.342/.384. His OPS of .726 is third lowest among Pirates players who have appeared in at least 70 games. Kendrick’s OPS of .785 would immediately be the third best for the Pirates, right behind Andrew McCutchen (.865) and Pedro Alvarez (.802), and would be the second best among NL second basemen behind Matt Carpenter (.881).
The Angels aren’t going to get Gerrit Cole in return for Kendrick, so don’t ask. They aren’t getting Jameson Tallion either. So again, don’t ask. After Tallion though, is 18 year old Luis Heredia. Currently in A-Ball, Heredia posseses a mid-90’s fastball and developing secondary pitches. He’s young for the league, so his 2-3 record and north of 4.00 ERA aren’t eye-popping. But his makeup and work ethic combined with raw stuff puts gives him the potential to be a front-end starter.
But isn’t that a high starting point? This is Howie Kendrick we are talking about.
No. In my opinion, it’s not.
Kendrick is signed through 2015 to a very team-friendly contract. and has consistently been among the better offensive second basemen in the AL, and among the 10 best in all of baseball. Asking for some teams top-tier pitching prospect is not outlandish. In fact, it should be the starting point. Then the Angels can start eyeing up Major League ready talent. If Dipoto plays his cards right, he could bring in an impressive haul for Kendrick. Hell, he was able to get both Patrick Corbin and Tyler Skaggs for Dan Haren.
This might be where things get tricky. In Kendrick’s case, the Angels have two prospects in Taylor Lindsey and Alex Yarbrough who, although not Major League ready, could be called up to get their feet wet. The season is already on the brink of being torpedo’d, why not hand the keys over to the kids and let them play? In Aybar’s case, the Angels don’t have anyone who is “waiting in the wings” so to speak. Eric Stamets is in High-A, and Jose Rondon is in Low-A, but each of them are well behind Lindsey and Yarbrough. Andrew Romine would be the most likely to take over should Aybar be shipped out, and that’s not exciting.
Although Aybar doesn’t rank as high as Kendrick does offensively by way of OPS, his .699 OPS still ranks ninth in baseball among shortstops who qualify for a batting title, and fifth in the AL. As offensively-minded as the shortstop position has become, it is still considered a “defense first” spot on the diamond. And with a Gold Glove sitting on his mantle at home, his position among the games elite defensive shortstop’s is cemented. If you care for things like Gold Glove’s at least. His contract also runs a year further into the future (signed through 2016) than Kendrick’s, and at a similarly affordable price. His price tag should be higher than that of Kendrick, and the Angels would almost have to ask for a shortstop in return.
Leading the NL Central, the Cardinals only glaring hole is at shortstop. Pete Kozma is their everyday shortstop, and his OPS of .589 is 110 points lower than Aybar’s, and 18th in baseball among shortstops. An upgrade here could help the Cardinals hold off the Pirates, and avoid the dreaded one-game playoff that comes with sinning a Wild Card spot.
The Angels could ask for Ryan Jackson who is currently hitting .293/.366/.377 in AAA, but that’s only marginally better than Romine’s .279/.364/.369 slash line in Salt Lake. In which case, the Angels are better off targeting even more pitching. And if there is any team that has an overabundance of pitching, it’s the St. Louis Cardinals.
Nine of the Cardinals top 20 prospects on MLB.com are pitchers. Considering Aybar’s affordability, consistency and Pete Kozma, the Angels could start at the top with Michael Wacha if dealing with the Cardinals. Wacha is also ranked 18th in MLB.com’s top 100 prospects, so that might be shooting for the moon. But Dipoto wont know if he doesn’t ask.
After that there is hard-throwing Carlos Martinez and left-hander John Gast. Although, in the case of the latter, he wont be pitching again until he recovers from surgery to repair a torn left lat muscle that will have him sidelined for 8-12 months.
With the news of Scott Downs getting traded this morning for Cory Rasmus, Dipoto has already gotten the ball rolling. The time is now to cash in where he can and prepare as best as he can for 2014. I would be saddened to see either of Howie Kendrick or Erick Aybar leave Anaheim, but the both of them could go a long way towards helping restock the upper minors with high end talent.