Was Trading Howie Kendrick Really Worth It?

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Updated: August 4, 2015

Was Trading Howie Kendrick Really Worth It?

It was a rough past week for the Angels. Swept by both division rival, the Astros, and local rival, the Dodgers. Not only were the Angels swept by the Dodgers; they also had to watch former Angel, Howie Kendrick hit 2 home runs, knock in 3 runs, and score 3 times. Kendrick well known for that big smile of his played 9 years for the Angels before being traded in the offseason for starting pitcher, Andrew Heaney. Kendrick was drafted by the Angels in 2002, and made his debut for the team in 2006. In his career with the Angels, Kendrick had a batting average of .292, hit 78 home runs, and knocked in 501 runs. He also played a well defensive second base, and most importantly was a fan favorite.

To replace Kendrick, the Angels traded for second basemen Josh Rutledge, and Johnny Giavotella in the offseason. Giavotella beat out Rutledge for the starting spot at second base in Spring Training. Since then Giavotella has also grown to be a fan favorite for the Angels. The real question is: “was trading Howie Kendrick worth it?”

Let’s jump into the comparison by first looking from an offensive standpoint. Before the 2015 campaign this wouldn’t have even been a question. Kendrick was a household name for baseball fans; while Giavotella was not. So far this season Kendrick in his age 31 season has a batting average of .288 and has been a big fill for the Dodgers middle infield after they traded away Dee Gordon. Giavotella in his age 27 season is hitting .263. Now you might say Kendrick is the clear winner when it comes to average, and the numbers do show that, but Giavotella had never hit above .250 in his other 4 seasons in the major leagues. Does .025 average really make that big of a difference? It’s not a tremendous difference.

A small advantage Kendrick poses compared to Giavotella is his ability to hit the long ball at times. Kendrick isn’t a big power threat, but he does have 9 homers compared to Giavotella’s 3 homers. Kendrick has 45 RBIs compared to Giavotella having 37 RBIs. Not a big advantage there either. So far looking at just three stats the two players look pretty even.

Both Kendrick and Giavotella have walk off hits this season, and according to baseballreference.com both players have a clutch rating of 1.1. Both players seem to come through for their teams when they need it the most. Even when you look at wins above replacement (WAR): Kendrick has a rating of 0.7, and Giavotella has a rating of 0.4. From an offensive standpoint Giavotella is almost comparable to Kendrick. The Angels would only have 0.3 more wins with Kendrick at second base.

Defensively, Kendrick is far better than Giavotella. Kendrick has an impressive fielding percentage this season of .990. Giavotella on the other hand has a .978 fielding percentage. So the main loss the Angels have suffered from losing Kendrick is from a defensive stand point.

When you look at the contracts though, Giavotella is clearly costing the Angels less money. Not to mention Kendrick will be a free agent in 2016, but Giavotella won’t reach free agency till 2020.

And then there is the x-factor on why it was a good idea to trade Kendrick, and that is Andrew Heaney. Heaney who was drafted by the Marlins in 2012 as the 9th overall pick was traded with others to the Dodgers. Later on that day the Dodgers traded Heaney to the Angels for Kendrick.

Heaney struggled in Spring Training for the Angels and started the season in AAA for the Salt Lake Bees. The lanky left hander earned his first start in June for the Angels against Houston where he pitched 6 innings and gave up only 1 run. Since Heaney’s call-up he has fared well in the MLB. So far in 9 starts this season Heaney has a 5-1 record, boasting a 1.97 ERA, and striking out 34 batters compared to walking just 7. Heaney was key to the Angels success in June and July, because he was able to step up when Jered Weaver suffered an injury, and was forced to move to the DL, and with the struggles from CJ Wilson and Matt Shoemaker. Now that Wilson is potentially out for the year, it is without a doubt Heaney will continue to be in the rotation. Heaney’s dominance earned him AL Rookie of the Month honors for the month of July. Heaney is also just 24 years old, and won’t be a free agent till 2021.

Clearly, the Angels trading Kendrick was the right decision. The emergence of Heaney in the rotation, and the unexpected success of Giavotella at second base has made the deal by former Angel GM, Jerry Dipoto look like a steal, and a really smart decision.

 

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