By Greg Bearringer, AngelsWin.com Columnist -
Last night, I decided to take some time off of Twitter and spend even more time with my not-yet-four-week-old son. The Angels offseason, and the Michigan coaching search, had evaporated too much of my productivity and watching my son examine my face like I'm some alien monster was worth not knowing the 411 on a bunch of non-news.
Then… a few very interesting things actually happened. Well played, MLB Winter Meetings. Well played.
The most interesting story line of this Angels off-season was their amorous pursuit of middle infield depth. Anyone capable of holding a glove and standing in the sun for a few hours was brought up as a potential target. Their actual prize was Josh Rutledge, a poor defender with an OK-but-possibly-altitude-enhanced record of hitting (at least in the minors). Last season his offensive stats were okay (.269/.323.405), but were inflated by a .353 BABIP. His road splits last season are pretty scary (.215/.265/.333!) and haven't been much better over the course of his career.
Having him stick to one position (he had been depth for Colorado at SS, 2nd, and 3rd) may help his defense eventually become "average". However, it would be hard to see him as a worthwhile starter at 2nd base. Luckily, the cost was pretty low. Here's how the conversation for this trade probably went:
Jerry Dipoto: "We want Josh Rutledge and are willing to pay little more than the bare minimum."
Jeff Bridich: "Do you have anyone who throws hard?”
Jerry Dipoto: "Yeah. Kid's name Jairo Diaz. He's OK."
Jeff Bridich: "We have a deal!"
Again, it's hard to be too mad at this trade because of the cost (though Jairo Diaz has a chance, since he throws hard) , but I don't think Rutledge is going to do much for our infield depth.
Good thing we have the most under-rated infield in the majors. Howie Kendrick and Erick Aybar are really good.
Well, the Angels made a second swap last night, this time sending Kendrick to the Dodgers for recent Marlins prospect Andrew Heaney. That is a decent move considering Kendrick is one measly year from free agency.
Heaney is a left-hander with three big-league pitches: A good, low-to-mid-90's fastball, a decent change-up, and a pretty good slider. Though he has a slight frame (6'2", 185 lbs), he has a fairly repeatable delivery and has slowly been refining his craft since being drafted. He's a quality, future mid-rotation cog. Okay, so he's not an ace. Still, controllable (through 2020), quality, left-handed starters aren't exactly cheap. Kendrick is a pretty good player, but it's hard to see how one year of Kendrick comes close to the value of Heaney over the next six seasons. And, if the Angels regret the trade, they will likely have the chance to bid for him again next off-season.
Of course, this also means that your starting second baseman next year will likely be Grant Green, an athletic player who has yet to become the defensive player his abilities hint at. He is, however, talented enough to come close to matching or even bettering Kendrick at the plate (despite last season). And, like Rutledge above, perhaps sticking at second base instead of moving him around as the A's and Angels have in his career can make him acceptable at 2nd base. Of course, Green's career has been characterized by “should." This could be the proverbial put-up or shut-up year for Mr. Green.
All along I've thought that the Angels wanted one more starting pitcher, and today they got a really good young one. While it did cost them a step back in the infield, they do have a little more payroll room to add another piece. I could see the Angels adding a 1B/LF/DH option on a one-year deal, but Dipoto is now in a position to wait for the market to develop. Kendrick will be missed, but this move was worth the cost.
The question now becomes, “Are they done making moves?"