LOS ANGELES — One of the areas of importance for the Dodgers this offseason is second base, and even though Howie Kendrick was traded on Friday, that deal did little to change the team’s overall outlook at the position.
Kendrick, an 11-year veteran with 1,084 career starts at second base, played more than three times as many innings in left field in 2016 (675⅓) than he did at second base (210⅓). Kendrick wanted more playing time, and the Dodgers could have easily penciled him in at second base next season. With this trade, it is clear that was never their intention.
“There are still some free agent and trade targets that we’re looking at second base,” Dodgers general manager Farhan Zaidi said in a conference call on Friday.
The Dodgers have been very loosely linked to potential trade targets Ian Kinsler of the Tigers and Brian Dozier of the Twins (with the caveat to take these rumors with as many grains of salt your diet allows).
Kinsler has one year remaining on his contract with Detroit that will pay him $11 million in 2017, and has a team-friendly club option for 2018 at $10 million, with a $5 million buyout. Dozier, who hit 42 home runs last year for the Twins, has an even more team-friendly contract, due just $6 million in 2017 and $9 million in 2018.
Among free agents, the Dodgers have made no secret of their desire to retain Chase Utley. Zaidi on Friday didn’t mention Utley, except in generally referencing the Dodgers’ free agents, saying, “we’re having dialogue with all those guys.”
Whether the Dodgers fill their second base vacancy by trade or free agency, clearing Kendrick’s $10 million salary (paid half in 2017, half deferred to December 2019) will help in that regard, or perhaps in retaining some of the club’s higher-end free agents — including third baseman Justin Turner, closer Kenley Jansen and starting pitcher Rich Hill — still a priority for the club.
“Our group of internal guys are very high on our list,” Zaidi said. “But once we get a sense of how those free agent situations play out, that may dictate how we approach the rest of the offseason.”
Should Utley return, he’ll likely need a platoon partner, after hitting .154/.206/.264 and starting only seven times all season against left-handed pitchers.
“Internally, we had Kiké Hernandez and Chris Taylor up with us in the big leagues last year. Micah Johnson played a lot of second base for us in Triple-A, and Willie Calhoun was in Double-A and had a really good Fall League,” Zaidi said. “It’s no one guy, it’s a collection of guys. And again, there is plenty of offseason left if we want to bring in a more experienced player.”
Calhoun, the Dodgers’ fourth-round draft pick in 2014, hit .254/.318/.469 with a team-leading 27 home runs for Double-A Tulsa in 2016. His bat is his biggest asset, and he is one of the Dodgers’ top position player prospects, though it remains to be seen whether he will remain at second base defensively as he progresses.
"With the lack of Triple-A experience, needing some more time [in the minors] would be our expectation,” Zaidi said. “We've made an effort to incorporate some young players in the big leagues for different roles, and you never want to rule out a guy accelerating the time table on you.
“We'll see how he looks in big league camp.”
That’s something Calhoun is looking forward to.
There will be a new and better version of myself when I come back in 2017, you can guarantee that.— June Calhoun (@11WillieCalhoun) November 12, 2016