Dodgers mulling options at second base
BOCA RATON, Fla. -- As the awards keep rolling in, last winter's trade of Dee Gordon to Miami becomes an increasingly sensitive subject around the Dodgers.
Gordon added a Rawlings Gold Glove Award at second base to the batting and stolen base titles he won during the year. That's a trifecta nobody in history had done.
Meanwhile, the Dodgers aren't sure who their second baseman is, as Gordon's replacement, Howie Kendrick, is a free agent. Kendrick rejected the club's one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer on Friday. General manager Farhan Zaidi said the club still has interest in veteran free agent Chase Utley, whose $15 million option was not picked up after he hit .202 over 34 games for the Dodgers in 2015. Utley turns 37 in December.
"We were happy with his performance and what he brought to our clubhouse," Zaidi said of Utley. "We're sort of evaluating different options in the infield, and he's part of that evaluation."
The interest in Utley might just as much be for third base, as Justin Turner's knee surgery last month was more involved than the clean-up the club announced. Turner instead required a microfracture procedure to stimulate cartilage growth, requiring a longer recovery time and less certain prognosis than typical clean-up procedures.
Turner on Wednesday said that his recovery is "going great so far." According to Zaidi, the operation went as expected, and Turner will play in Spring Training games and be ready for Opening Day.
Enrique Hernandez and Jose Peraza also could be in the second-base mix if Kendrick does not return, the uncertainty a result of dealing away Gordon, despite his youth and controlled salary.
Gordon, pitcher Dan Haren and infielder Miguel Rojas were sent to Miami for reliever Chris Hatcher, utility man Hernandez, catcher Austin Barnes and pitcher Andrew Heaney, the latter being flipped to the Angels for Kendrick to replace Gordon at second base. In addition, the Dodgers paid $12.5 million to cover the salaries of Haren and Gordon.
"Dee had a great season, no doubt about it," Zaidi said. "We're obviously really happy with the guys we got. It was about filling the position, which we did with Howie, and also [to] create depth at other spots and get guys that will be part of our club for the next several years.
"Trading away a guy is not an indictment of that player. A lot of times it's need for need, and we said that at the time. I would say [Gordon] exceeded our expectations and he exceeded everybody's expectations, and that's a testament to him and his work ethic. There were people in our organization who felt like he'd shown that ability to improve. Even when he moved over to second base, he got better as the 2014 season went on."
The Marlins had long coveted Gordon's speed and athleticism. The Dodgers were unconvinced he would emerge as a frontline second baseman after being moved from shortstop. Zaidi said Gordon's continued improvement defensively was a bigger surprise than the batting title.
"With his speed and approach, he's going to leg out a lot of infield hits, which he did, so he has the ability to hit for high average," said Zaidi. "Defensively, because it was a new position for him, to get better at that new position is an impressive accomplishment, and I know the Miami guys have done a good job and he's credited them."