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Athletics trade rumors: Angels open to Howie Kendrick move

We can do trade speculation with the best of them. Yes, I mention Jeff Samardzija and John Jaso. Even Sean Doolittle makes a cameo.

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The second day of General Manager meetings are underway on this fine Tuesday, and Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports is reporting on the parameters of any speculated deal for second baseman Howie Kendrick of the Los Angeles Angels.

Just what sort of pieces in the Athletics organization fit that sort of call for offers that also fit the Angels organizational goals?

Before getting into that, what does Kendrick offer the A's?

Who are they upgrading from? Ernick Puntgard.

Second base is presumably a platoon between Eric Sogard batting against right-handed pitching and switch-hitter Nick Punto batting against left-handed pitching. Howie Kendrick, however, is an everyday player. On offense, Howie Kendrick is an upgrade against even the most idealized platoon version of "Ernick Puntgard."

Kendrick is 50 batting points better than Sogard in their careers against right-handed pitching, and 82 slugging points. Against left-handed pitching, even better. Kendrick definitely has power where Punto does not. A 125 slugging point difference between the two career splits against left-handed pitching basically means Kendrick gets one more base than Punto for every eight plate appearances. That gulf between Punto and Kendrick against left-handed pitching is only wider in 2014, to one extra base per seven plate appearances.

Eric Sogard vs RHP, career 275 774 .240 .296 .330 .626
Howie Kendrick vs RHP, career 980 3112 .290 .329 .412 .742
Nick Punto vs LHP, career 544 1188 .260 .326 .328 .654
Howie Kendrick vs LHP, career 516 1307 .298 .339 .453 .792
Eric Sogard vs RHP, 2014 97 281 .228 .301 .280 .581
Howie Kendrick vs RHP, 2014 149 505 .282 .337 .377 .714
Nick Punto vs LHP, 2014 51 110 .238 .300 .307 .607
Howie Kendrick vs LHP, 2014 71 169 .327 .379 .455 .834

And what about defense?

I'm going to use the last three years of Ultimate Zone Rating from Fangraphs to compare these three at second base, and present it in the "UZR/150 defensive games" format. A defensive game is defined as, "The number of outs made by an average fielder at his position given the exact distribution of balls in play for that player divided by the number of outs an average player at that position makes per game. This adjustment allows us to take as much appropriate recent data about their defense as possible, keeping in mind that Eric Sogard did not join the 25-man roster for the long haul until 2013, and Nick Punto played all over the diamond when he was with the Cardinals and Dodgers in 2012 and 2013.

2012-2014 at 2B UZR/150 Inn Comment
Howie Kendrick +5.0 3671.1 Above average
Eric Sogard +4.5 1635.1 Above average
Nick Punto +0.6 706.2 Average

I think I can say that Kendrick is certainly not a downgrade from Sogard, and is certainly an upgrade from Punto. This seems to fit my expectations of these players' defensive skill levels.

The "comment" in the table refers to the FanGraphs shorthand, where +15 is "Gold Glove Caliber", +10 is "Great", +5 is "Above Average", 0 is "Average", and so forth into the negatives.

What do the A's give up?

Just what is a "player or pitcher under comparable or longer control?" The last time the A's acquired an infielder from the Angels, the A's shipped six or seven years of Grant Green over for a year-and-a-half of Alberto Callaspo. What could the A's send that would be the centerpiece of a deal that would be worth one season of the 3- or 4-fWAR player that is Howie Kendrick?

A starting pitcher?

The Angels had quite a starting pitching crisis at the end of the season. Garrett Richards was lost to that terrible injury covering first base, and Matt Shoemaker missed the last few starts of the regular season before returning in the playoffs. C.J. Wilson became inconsistent, prompting manager Mike Scioscia to note after pulling Wilson in the first inning of a September game against the Athletics, "He has terrific stuff. At times it works and he's on top of his game, and sometimes the game is on top of him, like we saw tonight." The Angels were starting Wade LeBlanc and their bullpen instead of dipping into whomever was in Triple-A.

So send Jeff Samardzija? Pricy, but this is a star-for-star trade between two players likely to receive qualifying offers after 2015 if they remain on one team for the entire year. There's also that rich free agent market in starting pitchers the A's could tap. I'm talking just centerpieces here, so a trade could include a prospect going one way or another.

What about Scott Kazmir? I just do not think the Angels will take the chance on Kazmir again given his injury history and Kendrick's comparative lack (though Kendrick does have a few 15-day DL stints over the years).

A catcher?

The Angels did recently trade away Hank Conger to the Astros, and he picked up about 70 starts behind the plate. Left behind is right-handed batting Chris Iannetta, who hits against both sides pretty well but has never made more than about 100 starts at catcher in any season of his career.

The most obvious A's catcher that fits the bill as a "player . . . under comparable control" is John Jaso, who is facing his final arbitration year. For purposes of trade discussions, John Jaso is 100% ready to catch, and would complement the 100 or so starts Iannetta makes while playing designated hitter in games against right handed pitching that Iannetta catches.

John Jaso at DH would be a particular improvement for a team that started Raul Ibanez, Brennan Boesch, David Freese, and Efren Navarro at DH for a combined 51 games in 2014.

The A's would be left with Stephen Vogt as the left-handed batting complement to Derek Norris. While a slight drop in production, an improvement on defense as well as the massive upgrade at second base coming from Kendrick could make the deal worth it.

Who else?

Beyond Samardzija or Jaso, I am not sure who else the A's have that would not be a ridiculous overpay (e.g. Josh Donaldson) or that would require additional major pieces from an already depleted farm system. I would be loathe to give up on Drew Pomeranz because he could be good for the A's for quite a long time.

Maybe Sean Doolittle, if their extension talks with Huston Street do not walk out, but I am just not sure that would be enough to get Kendrick, as massive psychological trauma to the Oakland fan base is not that valuable to the Angels organization.

Who plays second for the Angels if Kendrick does not?

Next in the depth chart at second base for the Angels is presently Gordon Beckham and Grant Green. The thing is the Angels can afford to give a second baseman a longer term contract that the A's might be reluctant to do because they want to provide a clear path for prospect Daniel Robertson, who may eventually need to move to second base.

Why would the Angels do this?

If the Angels do not have to pay for a high-level starting pitcher because they traded away salary while getting one in trade, they could instead sign a free agent to play second base (e.g. Jed Lowrie or Asdrubal Cabrera). The concern for the Angels is the luxury tax cap as they figure out an extension for Huston Street and other free agent signings.

The payroll concern for the A's, well, that's another debate.