Fresh off the heels of a disappointing NLDS series loss, former Angels 2B and current Dodgers 2B has some thinking to do in regards to his career. Yes, the man who was once synonymous with the phrase "Future batting champ!" is going to be hitting free agency, just one season after being traded to the Dodgers for pitcher Andrew Heaney(one of Jerry Dipoto's greatest hits), and while the second base free agent market may be competitive this year, Kendrick is going to have his fair share of tire kicking. But will those GM tire kickers include the Angels, and our new best bud Billy Eppler?
Many lamented the loss of Howie Kendrick last winter, regardless of the possible success that Andrew Heaney could bring to the club. He was a fan favorite; a tried and true Halo who made tons of waves in their farm system and quickly ingrained himself into the fabric of the Angels franchise after his call-up in 2006. The "Future Batting Champion" talk never quite materialized(yet, at least, but i'm not holding my breath), but he was always a consumate 2B, proving his worth with both his bat and his glove. In his years with the Halos, he averaged 3.1 bWAR per season, hit .292 and had an OPS of .756. Still, his four year contract that saw him get paid $9.5 million over the last two seasons, began to give the Angels pause, and when the opportunity to ship away for a talented, young arm, Dipoto and the Halos had to disappoint legions of honks out there and send Howie packing.
The decision caused multiple patterns of turbulence for the Angels heading into Spring Training, due to the fact that nobody was entirely sure what was to be done with second base. Eventually, a hero emerged...one that would become our unofficial team mascot and real life Rally Monkey; an adrenaline-dispensing spark plug by the name of Johnny Giavotella won the job outright...a guy that had been with the Royals for a number of years but struggled to find either sustained success, or sustained playing time. Well, in 2015 Giavotella would get the most playing time he's ever seen, and boy did he make the best of it. "Howie who?" was a thought that went through my mind on multiple occasions, especially when Johnny G was being the most clutch, non-Mike Trout Angel we've seen in years(something that Howie was not exactly known for, if at all).
If we're to look at their 2015 seasons, the Heaney/Kendrick trade really paid off for the Halos, considering how sterling Heaney looked at times(and considering his age), but also because they got lucky and wound up with a guy at 2B who put up pretty much the same numbers as Kendrick did this year for our crosstown rivals.
From a quick surveying of those meat-and-potatoes stats, it appears we got a Howie Kendrick clone who also made about $9 million less this year. Howie Kendrick even posted a 1.1 bWAR in his 117 games played(which was the lowest of his career) while The Flying Cannoli had an even 1.0 bWAR in 129 games played. The main differences between the two probably lies in their defensive skills, as Johnny Giavotella was known to have a hiccup or two in the field(12 errors on the season) while Kendrick is much more solid in that respect(5 errors on the season). One other surprising note is that while Johnny G was a maniac in close games or clutch situations, he still has some competition from Howie on that front in 2015. Giavotella batted a robust .309 with RISP, while Howie Kendrick batted .369 with RISP. Not too shabby for either guy, really.
Considering their 2015 seasons, with their new respective ball clubs, it'd be easy to see why the Angels may not pay any mind with the second base free agent market this winter, but it still may be worth checking in on ol' Howie and seeing what it'd take to have a return of our prodigal, Future Batting Champ son. Giavotella was a stud, especially down the stretch in a wacky wild card race, but who knows what he'll do for his sophomore Angels season. Whereas with Howie, you can pretty much set your clock by his steady batting average and solid defense.
It'll be interesting to see if the Halos have any interest at the position, whether it's going back to Howie or looking elsewhere in the market(like a Daniel Murphy, perhaps, although we're also talking big bucks with that guy, too). There will be talent on the market, no doubt. But if we could have a guarantee that 2016 wereto be another year like this past season for Johnny Giavotella, then I'd say we give him a little extra money and become big spenders elsewhere on the field.
Just don't be surprised if/when the inevitable "Angels looking into Howie Kendrick" rumors take flight.