LA story of Heaney, Kendrick could have happy ending for all
Trade between Angels and Dodgers has potential to benefit both sides
LOS ANGELES -- It was obscured somewhat by a flurry of activity at the Winter Meetings in San Diego, but it was a big deal indeed when the Dodgers acquired Howie Kendrick from the Angels in exchange for Andrew Heaney on Dec. 11.
Among the many fascinating aspects to this swap is that you had to dig deep into the archives -- all the way to November 1972 -- to find a trade of this impact between the turf rivals in Southern California.
That 1972 blockbuster brought Andy Messersmith and Ken McMullen to the Dodgers, with Frank Robinson, Bill Singer, Billy Grabarkewitz, Bobby Valentine and Mike Strahler moving to the Angels.
It turned out to be a fairly even swap. Messersmith was a frontline starter and two-time All-Star with the Dodgers, helping them claim the 1974 National League West title, while McMullen provided quality play at third before Ron Cey moved in to stay in '74. Robinson had some pop left -- 30 homers, 97 RBIs in '73 -- and Singer was a 20-game winner that year alongside Nolan Ryan. Valentine's promising career unraveled with a devastating leg injury, and neither Grabarkewitz nor Strahler did much in Anaheim.
It probably will take years to determine the outcome of Kendrick-for-Heaney, given the youth of the promising southpaw. As Heaney bids for a spot in manager Mike Scioscia's rotation this spring, Kendrick will be getting comfortable with new shortstop Jimmy Rollins in a dramatically reshaped Dodgers lineup.
Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and general manager Farhan Zaidi in effect traded Dee Gordon for Kendrick, giving up speed and upside for proven, steady hands and consistently dependable performance.
Hours before the Angels' deal was announced, Gordon was sent to the Marlins with Dan Haren and Miguel Rojas for Heaney, reliever Chris Hatcher and position prospects Enrique Hernandez and Austin Barnes.
The Marlins acquired three players who can help Giancarlo Stanton and Co. challenge in the National League East this summer. Gordon still has doubters, but he's a leadoff catalyst with few equals when he's in a groove. Haren should flourish as he reunites with Jeff Mathis, his favorite catcher, and watches a superb outfield cover all that Marlins Park turf. Rojas brings a brilliant glove to any infield role.
Their setup swap with the Marlins, enabling them to reel in some other pieces, complicates evaluations of the Dodgers' deal with the Angels from the NL West champions' end.
For the Angels, there is clear immediate risk involved in trying to replace Kendrick's many assets. The hope is that it pays off in the long haul, Heaney emerging as a quality starter.
Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto made repeated reference to "sustainability" when the trade was announced in San Diego.
"In order to get players or prospects the quality of Andrew Heaney, you have to give," Dipoto said. "It will be difficult to replace Howie; no joke about that. We're going to do what we can to fill in. We just felt like one year of control of Howie as a pending free agent after the '15 season, [it] was impossible to walk away from Heaney and six years of [club] control."
The Dodgers, of course, have the resources to keep Kendrick in their employ for as long as they choose.
Turning 31 in July, Kendrick had his best overall season in 2014. The Angels generated the American League's most potent offense despite Josh Hamilton's struggles, in no small part because of Kendrick's production.
Mike Trout and Albert Pujols commanded most of the attention, but as Kendrick roared, the 2014 Angels soared.
Starting in 95 of the Angels' MLB-best 98 wins, Kendrick's line was .351/.404/.451 with 66 RBIs in those 95 victories. In 62 losses in which he started, Kendrick's line was .198/.250/.267 with nine RBIs.
In the season's final 24 games, as the Angels ran away with the AL West by 10 games, Kendrick cleaned up batting fourth: .386/.426/.591 with 19 RBIs. His OPS was .880 in 39 starts in the cleanup role, and he batted .326 with a .825 OPS with runners in scoring position.
He lacks the power of a traditional cleanup man, but Kendrick is a threat anywhere in the order bashing line drives, Derek Jeter-style, the other way. His glove work steadily improving, he's widely considered a top 10 defender. His Angels buddy for years, Erick Aybar, will miss Kendrick's cool presence as the vastly underrated shortstop tries to find comfort zones with contenders for the vacated spot.
Scioscia will oversee competition from Josh Rutledge, Grant Green, Johnny Giovotella, Taylor Featherstone and Alex Yarbrough, each trying to turn opportunity into a steady job.
Heaney, an Oklahoman who turns 24 on June 5, had a strong Major League debut in June against the Mets (six innings, four hits, one run) but was 0-3 with a 5.83 ERA in five starts and two relief efforts for the Marlins. His stuff, command and makeup in three Minor League seasons have made him a favorite of scouts and insiders.
If Heaney is the real deal, and Kendrick is Kendrick in his new environment, this is one of those trades that should benefit everyone involved in 2015.