Considering the Mets aren't jumping through hoops to retain Daniel Murphy, they're unlikely to replace the 30-year-old free agent with Howie Kendrick, a 32-year-old with eerily similar offensive numbers.
Like Murphy, second baseman Kendrick received and declined his qualifying offer from the Dodgers. If the Mets switched out their left-handed contact hitter with the right-handed contact hitter, they would have to forfeit their first-round amateur draft pick, awarding a supplementary selection in between the first and second rounds to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
If the Mets are not enamored of Murphy, they're unlikely to be impressed by Kendrick; the two have posted virtually identical numbers at the plate throughout their respective careers.
Last season proved no different: Murphy offered more power, clubbing a career-high 14 homers and .449 slugging percentage before his postseason tear, while Kendrick notched a superior .336 on-base percentage owing largely to his .295 batting average. Both had a .325 wOBA, offering neither player a distinguishable advantage.
Kendrick had spent his entire career with the Los Angeles Angels, who drafted him in 2002, before getting dealt to the Dodgers for starting pitcher Andrew Heaney last winter. Despite having a career-high 7.1% walk rate and .347 on-base percentage in 2014, Kendrick did not factor into the Angels' long-term plans.
His improved plate discipline waned in 2015 when his walk rate dropped to 5.5%, though still above his 4.8% career percentage. Murphy's 6.0% walk rate is seemingly a big reason his Mets tenure is in jeopardy, and Kendrick is an equally aggressive hitter with lagging power. He also struck out way more last season (16.6%) than Murphy did (7.1%).
If there's a reason to prefer Kendrick, it's defense. While every batted ball hit Murphy's way is an adventure, Kendrick has proven an above-average fielder throughout his career. Those skills, however, eroded last season. Along with producing minus-12 defensive runs saved, he amassed a negative Ultimate Zone Rating (-4.5) for only the second time since reaching the majors in 2006. Any interested suitors will hope this is a one-year blip rather than a veteran losing speed and range in the infield. If he's a liability at second, what would the Mets have solved by swapping Murphy for him?
After failing to break the 100-game mark in his first three seasons, Kendrick shed the injury-prone label by playing 144 games per season from 2010-14. He missed more than a month with a strained hamstring sustained in August, but looked like his usual self late in September and during the NLDS, during which he hit .273/.273/.455. Still, signing a healthy 32-year-old for three or four years isn't necessarily a safe endeavor.
Had Kendrick replicated his keen batting eye and defense from 2014, he'd likely appear much higher on the Mets' offseason wish list. Then again, that guy probably would have priced his way out of their budget. Considering this current version of Kendrick stands to deliver similar results at a comparable cost to Murphy, chasing out the latter to welcome the former makes little sense.