LOS ANGELES -- The most noticeable changes made by the Dodgers new front office will be seen up the middle, with shortstop Jimmy Rollins and second baseman Howie Kendrick giving the team a brand new middle infield, and one that could be quite unique in the last three decades of the franchise.
Rollins and Kendrick each have one year remaining on their contracts so their stay in Los Angeles could be short. The Dodgers have top prospect Corey Seager waiting to takeover at shortstop as early as 2016, and the team is high on utility man Enrique Hernandez, acquired from the Marlins on Dec. 10, as a possible long-term solution at second base as well.
Though the club isn't ruling out keeping one or both of Kendrick and Rollins beyond 2015.
"The guys we're bringing in we're going to have one year, maybe beyond that," general manager Farhan Zaidi said on Wednesday.
With the prevalence and pending arrival of Seager, coupled with the five-year age difference, Kendrick is more likely than Rollins to be extended. But for now Kendrick, no stranger to trade rumors during his time with the Angels, is focused on 2015.
"I haven't really thought much about it. I will be a free agent at the end of this year, but my main focus right now is trying to get in and get to work," Kendrick said during his introductory press conference at Dodger Stadium in December. "I haven't really thought much about the contract stuff. I never have. I just go out and play baseball."
In 2015, Kendrick will be 31 and Rollins will be 36. They have a chance to be the Dodgers' third regular middle infield duo each age 30 or older since The Infield, which was intact through the 1981 season. Davey Lopes was 36 and Bill Russell was 32 in 1981, a strike-shortened year that saw the Dodgers win their fifth World Series.
Lopes was traded to the Athletics after the season, and since then there have only been five times in 33 seasons in which the Dodgers had starters at least 30 years old at both second base and shortstop.
Note: we are using the Baseball-Reference criteria for determining the starter at each position, which is almost always the most defensive innings at a given position. Ages here are baseball ages, which means as of June 30 of the year in question. Here is a look at those years of "old" Dodgers middle infields:
The Dodgers lost Steve Sax to free agency after winning the World Series in 1988, but signed longtime Yankees second baseman Willie Randolph to team with incumbent Alfredo Griffin at shortstop. Randolph hit .282/.366/.326, made the last of his six All-Star teams, and led Dodgers position players with 4.1 wins above replacement. Griffin hit a career-high 27 doubles, and his .247/.287/.308 believe it or not was a great improvement over his .199/.259/.253 mark in 1988.
Juan Samuel was in his second season as a Dodger, and his last year with at least 300 plate appearances. The second baseman made the All-Star team. Griffin was in his fourth and final season as a Dodger, cementing his mark as one of the worst hitters in franchise history. Among all Dodgers no-pitchers with at least 500 plate appearances, the defensive specialist Griffin ranks fifth-worst with a 57 OPS+.
Eric Young was in his second stint with the Dodgers, his original team, and his first full season with them. He stole 42 bases and scored 78 runs in 1998 even though he was limited by injuries to just 117 games on the season. Jose Vizcaino, like Young, returned to his original team, and was the Dodgers' primary shortstop until a July 31 trade for Mark Grudzielanek.
This was the final season for Jeff Kent, who was a second baseman in name only by the end. He was sidelined in September by arthroscopic left knee surgery and started only two of the final 27 games, with Blake DeWitt taking over at second. At shortstop, Rafael Furcal was putting up MVP-caliber numbers before getting hurt in early May, sidelined until late September with lower back surgery. Shortstop was so barren without Furcal that Nomar Garciaparra even started 29 games at the position. But it was Berroa who played the most at shortstop for the 2008 Dodgers, and his lasting contribution came during a postgame interview.
UPDATE: I mistakenly omitted the latest version over the Dodgers' over-30 middle infield, which was manned by seond baseman Orlando Hudson and shortstop Rafael Furcal, both 31, in 2009. Hudson hit for the cycle, made the All-Star team and won a Gold Glove, though in September lost his job to red-hot late acquisition Ronnie Belliard. Furcal was his usual productive self at shortstop and at the top of the lineup, in his fourth of six seasons in Los Angeles.
Here are the averages from 2012-2014 for both Kendrick and Rollins:
Before 1989, the last time the Dodgers had two middle infielders 30 or older qualify for the batting title was in 1979, with Lopes and Russell. But since then, it has only happened twice in the last 35 years.
Rollins had 609 plate appearances, the 13th time in 14 years he has reached at least 600 PA. He has averaged 151 games and 658 plate appearances in the last three years. Kendrick had a career-high 674 PA in 157 games in 2014, his fifth straight year of at least 500 PA. Over the past three years, he has averaged 142 games and 594 plate appearances.