MLB.com Columnist

Lyle Spencer

Kendrick, D-backs a perfect Hot Stove match?

Kendrick, D-backs a perfect Hot Stove match?

From where he eats, sleeps and plays with his kids, an easy drive from Chase Field in downtown Phoenix, free agent Howie Kendrick sees "a really good fit for what I'm looking for in a team."

The D-backs are geographically desirable. Even more important, they are fortified to make a serious run at the National League West title after a busy offseason of high-end acquisitions featuring front-end starters Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller.

"There hasn't been a lot of dialogue as far as I know, but I'm not concerned," Kendrick said when asked about still being on the market following a typically productive 2015 season with the Dodgers. "I just want to be in a good environment, with a team that's committed to winning. I think I mesh well wherever I am."

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Arizona reportedly has been in contact with Kendrick's representatives. Two other second basemen in his class have hammered out free-agent deals. Daniel Murphy signed with the Nationals for three years, $37.5 million, while Ben Zobrist inked a four-year, $56 million contract with the Cubs.

"You look at the Diamondbacks," Kendrick said, "they have a lot of good players who play the game the right way -- guys like Paul Goldschmidt and A.J. Pollock. I also know what Greinke can do for a team. They have a lot of pieces. I think I can bring a lot to any team."

Among the qualities Kendrick brought to the Angels in 2014 and the Dodgers last summer was a clutch bat. His .338 average in 272 at-bats with runners in scoring position the past two years is exceeded only by Matt Holliday, Michael Brantley, Buster Posey and Miguel Cabrera.

"I'm not going to complain about being mentioned with those guys," Kendrick said. One could sense the big smile forming across the phone line.

Kendrick has been a glue guy on quality teams for a decade. He learned a great deal from Torii Hunter, at the locker next door in Anaheim, and passed along knowledge to Mike Trout and other teammates on a daily basis. Kendrick is 32 and keeps himself in excellent condition year-round.

A steady defender at second base for nine seasons after breaking in with the Angels in 2006 primarily as a first baseman, Kendrick also played 26 games in left field in '11 and is capable of moving to third.

But Kendrick's calling card since the day he arrived in Anaheim has been his bat. Kendrick rakes, sending bullets to all fields.

Kendrick is a .293 career hitter with a .755 OPS. He has averaged 37 doubles and 12 homers per 162 games, but those numbers likely would change in a positive way in a far more friendly environment in Arizona. Angel Stadium never has been kind to hitters.

The Angels sent Kendrick to the Dodgers via the Marlins after a 2014 season that was among the best of his career. He hit .293 overall, .326 with men in scoring position. The Angels led the American League in runs scored, falling to 12th in 2015.

His season disrupted by a hamstring injury, Kendrick hit .295 in 117 games for the Dodgers. That figure rose to .360 with men in scoring position.

Kendrick's defense, a career best according to the analytics in 2014, slipped in '15. In his defense, the trend toward shifting seems to complicate the evaluation of infielders, who often find themselves in unfamiliar places.

The D-backs have Chris Owings and Aaron Hill on the depth chart at second base. Owings hit .227 with a .587 OPS last season. Hill, who homered 26 times as recently as 2012, batted .230 with a .640 OPS in 2015.

The Dodgers will be owed a compensation Draft pick by the club that signs Kendrick, assuming they don't bring him back. At the moment, Los Angeles has veteran Chase Utley, Enrique Hernandez and Micah Johnson at second base. Acquired from the White Sox, Johnson appeared in 33 games at second.

"Playing with the Dodgers was fun," Kendrick said. "I was hoping to go back there. I just want to be in a winning situation. The Diamondbacks are a team that's going to be really good."

Having sacrificed their first-round pick in the 2016 Draft in the Greinke signing, the D-backs would surrender the No. 37 overall pick by signing Kendrick.

Over the past decade, three players taken with the No. 37 pick -- James Paxton, Conor Gillaspie and Travis d'Arnaud -- have reached the Majors. Their combined Wins Above Replacement, according to Baseball-reference.com, is 5.4.

Howard Joseph Kendrick has a career WAR of 28.6, with a high of 5.3 in 2014.

Lyle Spencer is a national reporter and columnist for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @LyleMSpencer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.