LA Angels: Howie Kendrick Was the Missing Piece in Halos’ Puzzle
The LA Angels have a solid amount of contributing infielders returning to their roster, but that doesn’t mean they couldn’t have bolstered what was already a strength with an old friend.
One of the most beloved LA Angels in recent memory is Howie Kendrick. The former second base has kept his career going into his late 30’s by morphing himself into an elite utility man. During the Nationals’ World Series run, it seemed Halo fans flocked to support the Nationals strictly due to Kendricks’ presence.
So why not bring him back to root for him on the Halos one more time? Instead, Kendrick signed to stay with the Nationals on a one-year deal with a mutual option for 2021.
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While the Angels’ infield is already a strength with Andrelton Simmons, Tommy La Stella, David Fletcher, and Albert Pujols as the starters and Luis Rengifo as the primary backup, there’s still room for improvement. As of now, the Halos would rely on Matt Thaiss to take a leap and serve as the backup at both of the corners.
If they’re serious about contending though, the Angels can’t rely on two youngsters in Rengifo and Thaiss to supply quality play all year. That’s where Howie Kendrick could have come into the mold.
Last year, Howie hit .344 last season in 121 games. His production in the playoffs was historic, as he came up time after time in clutch situations for the Nationals. His role with the Angels would have seemed murky, but when you consider their unique roster, it’s obvious.
Shohei Ohtani won’t be available to serve as the designated hitter on at least three days of the week. The day he pitches and the two days surrounding have been the routine non-hitting days for the Angels and Ohtani since his arrival. Those are days Pujols can serve as the DH, which would have put Kendrick as the first baseman for three days of the week.
Days off for Fletcher, La Stella, and Simmons would mean Kendrick could’ve slotted into second base on those days thanks to Fletcher and La Stella’s versatility to play all over the infield. Kendrick could have even possibly supplanted La Stella as a starter if he proved he’s the same player as last season and/or La Stella regressed after a breakout 2019 campaign.
With top prospect Jo Adell not a sure thing to crack the Opening Day roster, Kendrick could have filled in in the outfield as well. He’s done so sparingly in his career, but can still cover enough ground (especially if he’s next to Mike Trout) to hold up on defense. Even when Adell makes the big league roster, having Kendrick as insurance would have been a phenomenal luxury.
As we’ve learned over recent years, great ball clubs have elite utility players to fill in gaps throughout the season. The Cubs has Ben Zobrist during their run. The Astros had Marwin Gonzalez. Every player on the Dodgers can seemingly play anywhere.
If the Angels want to take that step to become a legitimately good team, they need that super utility talent. Kendrick was the perfect option for this team, but with him heading back to D.C, it’s just another hole the Angels still need to fill this winter.