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Market sets value for Ben Zobrist trade

Andrew Friedman has himself a day -- Winter Meeting Recap: Day 3

Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Unable to acquire Ben Zobrist, as it would seem, Andrew Friedman and the massive front office from Chavez Ravine unloaded three trades on the baseball world yesterday to make something else work. Finally, the Winter Meetings have turned into what they're supposed to be: chaos -- and with great implications for the Rays.


The first move the Dodgers executed has been described as a blockbuster, with recent All-Star middle infielder Dee Gordon, veteran right-hander Dan Haren, infielder Miguel Rojas and cash going to Miami in exchange for lauded LHP Andrew Heaney, second baseman Enrique Hernandez, righty reliever Chris Hatcher and (personal favorite) catching prospect Austin Barnes.

For Miami, Gordon could be a flash in the pan offensively but the glove is great, Haren may get pissed and retire instead of playing in Miami, Rojas is glove-only. I hate this deal for them, because they paid a lot out.

For the Dodgers, nabbing Andrew Heaney is the part I want you to focus on. Heading into the season, he got top-30 rankings among all prospects, and found himself escalated to the bigs a little too early, but he was good enough for Miami to call on him in the playoff push and should succeed in the top tier next season.

The rest of the package is pretty nice as well. Barnes has a bat that I love the reports on. He comes with accolades for his mind and leadership on the field, and the athleticism to move off the dish to the middle infield if needed. Hernandez is bat first and provides depth, Hatcher should contribute to a spent 'pen. Great move.


Next, Friedman & co. flipped the hyped up Heaney for the expiring contract of Howie Kendrick.

Trading with rivals aside, the Angels pulled a Diamondbacks and brought more maybe-soon rotation talent into the fold, for a player and contract that comps pretty closely to Ben Zobrist, so I'm guessing the Rays said no and this was plan B.

Howie Kendrick might have a $9.5 million contract lined up for 2015, but he's essentially a poor man's Zobrist.

The 31-year old infielder has excellent contact skills and is a shade younger than Zobrist's 34 years, but when we line them up we can see Zorilla pull ahead and each offensive category, doing more with less as well. Kendrick is buoyed in his career as a BAbip-beater,  but the results are similar.

Ben Zobrist 654 .272 .354 .395 .333 119 .301 5.7
Howie Kendrick 674 .293 .347 .397 .328 115 .347 4.6

Kendrick has a slightly larger average, again thanks to putting barrel on the bat, but Zobrist compensates with his eye. Zobrist is also a switch hitter, something Kendrick is not, and has exhibited defensive versatility across every outfield position, including a return to center field over the winter in Japan.

For further comparison, we can line up some of the tailored Fangraphs scored in base running, offense, and defense.

Player HR SB BB% K% BsR Off Def WAR
Ben Zobrist 10 10 11.5% 12.8% 2.6 16.2 14.4 5.7
Howie Kendrick 7 14 7.1% 16.3% -0.1 11.0 8.8 4.6

Kendrick has more steals, but he actually scores at break even for his overall talent on the paths (last season that was a -5.6 by their measure). And if we are leaning on the Fangraphs marks, this was a banner year for Kendrick in the Off and Def measures, where as it was just another season for Zobrist.

The Angels sold high on Howie, the Rays don't need to sell high on Zobrist because he is who he is, and that's worth more as well. That's not to say Kendrick is not dependable to stay in the line up, but he hasn't been the sure thing Zobrist has been for the Rays over the last four seasons.

I'm leaning on the stats this heavily because these three teams fair well in comparison. They might as well play in the same ballpark, as far as park factors are concerned. Both LA locations and the Trop even line up next to each other on the Fangraphs park factor spectrum.

Rank Team Basic 1B 2B 3B HR SO BB GB FB LD IFFB
25 Dodgers 96 99 98 75 102 100 98 100 100 98 108
26 Angels 95 100 96 88 92 101 97 100 99 98 97
27 Rays 95 98 95 104 95 101 100 98 101 99 110

Either player's power would play up moving to the Ravine, but that's the only significant change, as neither have been a triples guy.

The good news for the Rays in all of this is we have the bar set for Zobrist, if the Rays continue to get inquiries on the utility All-Star. Heaney is an excellent pitching prospect, second only to Julio Urias among all lefties in the minors, and just ahead of Carlos Rodon and Henry Owens. That's incredible.


The Dodgers have also reportedly convinced the still-defensively-talented Jimmy Rollins to waive his no-trade rights.

The Phillies are prepared to send his expiring contract over to LA for a return that may-or-may-not have been what the Angels just nabbed. To make up for it, there's now a third team involved, but there doesn't seem to be any major roadblocks.


Then the Dodgers landed Brandon McCarthy on a four year deal to replace Dan Haren as the No. 4 starter, behind Kershaw, Greinke, and Ryu - hot damn.

McCarthy faired poorly in Arizona in 2014, but after a mid-season trade, posted a 2.89 ERA, 6.31 K/BB rate and 8.2 K/9 over 90 1/3 IP in New York.


And we're not close to done.

Soon to be finalized appears to be a Matt Kemp trade for Yasmani Grandal, giving the Dodgers a back stop with a killer glove and a few years of control, should they send cash and an All-Star outfielder to San Diego. The Padres would take on $77 million for Kemp's five years, so the Dodgers are only on the hook for $30M here, and $10M for Haren to facilitate all of yesterday's work.

In other words, half the Rays payroll just greased the wheels in Los Angeles.

This is apparently what Friedman can do with money.

Italicized stats courtesy of Fangraphs.