Why Howie Kendrick may be a bad bet for 2016

Howie Kendrick has been a consistent player, but there could be some red flags in his future. Harry How/Getty Images

Everyone seems to think free agent Howie Kendrick is the right fit for the Arizona Diamondbacks, which isn't the same thing as saying the Diamondbacks are going to sign Kendrick. General manager Dave Stewart has mentioned not wanting to lose a draft pick for signing him, which in the Diamondbacks' case would mean a second-round selection. That's a little silly, considering the D-backs gave up shortstop Dansby Swanson, the No. 1 overall pick in 2015, in the Shelby Miller trade. Since they've already lost the first-round pick for signing Zack Greinke, it actually makes more sense to sign Kendrick now, since they would only be losing that second-round pick instead of a first-rounder.

Anyway, the Diamondbacks do need a second baseman. Aaron Hill has now had two subpar seasons in a row and can't be counted on for a turnaround at 34. Chris Owings can't hit. They both bat right-handed, so there's not even a potential platoon situation there. Hill is on the payroll for $12 million so there seems to be a reluctance to pay Hill and Kendrick.

As Buster Olney wrote, Kendrick and other free agents like Dexter Fowler and Ian Desmond are stuck in the compensation-pick web, with teams wary of paying those good-not-great players and losing a pick.

That said, I'd be wary of Kendrick for another reason: He's at the precarious age -- he'll be 32 -- and in possession of a somewhat limited skill-set where his decline could be pretty rapid.

Look, he's been a remarkably consistent player, hitting between .285 and .297 each of the past five seasons. He's been a solid defender at second, generally rating around league average via the defensive metrics.

But ... I see some red flags here.

1. Injuries. He played 122 games in 2013 and 117 in 2015, so he's missed significant chunks of time in two of the past three seasons.

2. Declining power. His percentage of extra-base hits has been 6.7 percent the past two seasons, the lowest figures of his career.

3. His defense may be slipping. He was credited with minus-12 Defensive Runs Saved in 2015, a big decline from his plus-7 in 2014 (which was the second-highest figure of his career).

4. He doesn't walk much and never has. And his walk rate severely plummeted in the second half last season, when he drew just three walks in 136 plate appearances.

So he doesn't walk and his mid-range power game is in decline. Almost all of his offensive value is derived from his batting average. If he hits .270 instead of .295, he's not bringing a whole lot to the table, especially if the defensive metrics from 2015 hold up as well.

Then there's his age. The Diamondbacks only have to look at Hill to see how second basemen can lose it quickly. At age 30 and 31, Hill put up OPS totals of .882 and .818. He lost it at 32. One of the similar players to Kendrick on his Baseball-Reference page is Todd Walker, who had his last good year at 32 and was done at 34. Jose Vidro is another similar player, and his decline began even sooner. He was done at age 33. Brian Roberts was great through age 31, then injuries set in. Omar Infante hit .318 for the Tigers at age 31, signed a big contract with the Royals and has been terrible the past two seasons.

Like Kendrick, those were good players but not big stars. Like Kendrick, they weren't super athletic types who had a broad range of skills. Kendrick's best talent has always been the hit tool. He's not especially fast, he's never been a Gold Glove defender, and he hasn't been particularly durable.

Once the hit tool goes -- and there's evidence it's already starting -- Kendrick just won't be all that valuable, which is why I think his 2016 value is much closer to his 1.1 WAR of 2015 than his career-high 5.3 of 2014. Would he be an upgrade over Hill and/or Owings? Probably. But not a big one, certainly not enough to give him a three-year, $45 million contract or something along those lines.