The Angels have a problem. They have two second basemen and both of them deserve to start. This is a good problem to have, mind you, but still the Angels need to find a solution before the season starts.
Can Howie and Maicer continue to co-exist?
On one hand, the Angels have Howie Kendrick, the purported future batting champ. The job should be Howie’s to lose, but that was the case last year to and he DID lose it. Kendrick started the 2009 season so poorly that he was sent back down to the minors to get his head straightened out. Straighten himself out he did as he rejoined the Angels and seemed to finally live up to his billing as a hitting machine, posting a .949 OPS after the All-Star break and continuing that success on into the playoffs. Howie clearly has the ability to be franchise cornerstone, but he has never been able to consistently display that ability long enough for the Angels to count on him.
On the other hand, there is Maicer Izturis. Long a favorite of manager Mike Scioscia, mighty Maicer came to the rescue when Howie Kendrick faltered early in the season and ended the season with career-highs in average (.300), homers (8), RBIs (65), runs (74) and OPS (.793). Izturis served to stabilize the Angel order with his strong situational hitting, helping the Angels weather their storm of injuries and the slump of Howie Kendrick. Izturis is the superior fielder at second base and also has the ability to play shortstop (his natural position) when Erick Aybar needs the day off.
The logical move would be to sell high on either Kendrick or Izturis, trading one of the two to fill other needs, but the question is which one? Kendrick has the most value since he has a higher upside and is under team control for the next three years. Then again, he seems to finally be coming into his own, so would the Angels really want to give him away only to see him blossom elsewhere? Izturis has a fair amount of value himself since he would be a cheap and reliable option for a team in need of a starter at either middle infield position. The Angels would also be wise to get what they can for Izturis now rather than lose him for nothing at season’s end when Izturis becomes a free agent and no doubt bolts to a team willing to give him a full-time starting job. Of course, that impending free agency also puts an artificial limit on the return the Halos could get for Izzy in a trade.
Don’t get too excited, Howie. The job isn’t yours yet.
There is also a question though to whether or not the Angels can actually afford to give either player up. Izturis and Kendrick are very different players, but one thing they have in common is a propensity for getting injured. If the Angels were to trade either player away, they could find themselves in a quandry at mid-season when the player they kept gets injured. Thanks to last season’s trade of Sean Rodriguez, the Angels have very little middle infield depth left in the organization. If Kendrick, Izturis or even Erick Aybar then the best option the Angels have is Freddy Sandoval who can probably not embarrass himself at the plate, but he is really a corner infielder who occasionally moonlights at second base. That pretty much means that moving either Izturis or Kendrick will mean that the Angels need to spend a little bit of money from their tight budget to sign a reserve infielder rather than spend that money on upgrading the bullpen. It is pretty much the classic damned if you do damned if you don’t scenario.
The Angels probably should just bite the bullet and trade one of the two second basemen, but I have the distinct feeling that they will just opt for the path of least resistance and keep them both and let them battle it out for the starting gig with the loser getting rotated into the line-up somehow on a semi-regular basis. That certainly won’t help either player be content with their job or serve to fill the other holes in the Angel roster, but it the option with the least amount of risk. Then the Halos can do it all over again when they are forced to decide whether or not to re-sign Maicer Izturis and trade Kendrick or just finally trust Kendrick with the job completely.