Once the Los Angeles Angels traded left-handed reliever Scott Downs to the Atlanta Braves on Monday in exchange for a minor league prospect, it was clear that GM Jerry Dipoto has given up on this season and is intent on rebuilding the Halos’ farm system as he should. Though the Downs trade was puzzling, it is still somewhat encouraging that management appears focused on making this a younger, leaner team.
Even so, Los Angeles should not abandon hope of landing a deal for an impact player. Admittedly, they only have two assets whom they would be willing to part with who could land them such a player: shortstop Erick Aybar and second baseman Howie Kendrick.
It seems to me that Kendrick is the candidate far more likely to be shopped. Though his stellar hitting has been one of the few bright spots in the Angels’ offense this year (.298, 11 HRs, 43 RBIs), he has been lousy in the field (10 errors). Aybar, on the other hand, is also a solid hitter (.278 on his career) who is the Angels’ only reliable infielder, as evidenced by his Gold Glove in 2011.
With $18.9 million owed to him over the next two seasons, the Angels could explore a variety of options for Kendrick. Their priority should be on landing a competent starting pitcher as that is their most desperate need going forward. Beyond that, however, the Halos could nab a replacement-level second baseman, a strong minor league prospect, or even both.
Sure, the Angels would miss Kendrick’s bat, but their biggest offensive investment is not Kendrick — it is Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton. If neither of those players improves in the next year or two, it won’t matter if Kendrick hits .300 or .200 — the Angels will be a mediocre team.
If the sluggers come to life and recapture their former glory, however, then there will be little difference in value between Kendrick and a replacement-level second baseman. The difference between the Halos’ no. 3 through no. 5 rotation pitchers and a solid pitcher, however, is a huge one.
The biggest catch to any deal involving Kendrick is the list of 12 teams with whom he can veto any trade. This list is not known to the public, but it could prove a huge obstacle in the Angels’ quest to get some pitching.
Even so, there is no shortage of contenders who are seeking one extra piece for a deep playoff run. Kendrick’s bat could easily be that piece, and a trade for him could serve the twin purposes of filling out the Angels’ rotation and bolstering their flagging farm system. If they get a good deal, they should take it.
Tony Baker is a Los Angeles Angels writer for Rant Sports. You can follow him on Twitter at @tonloc_baker.