ANAHEIM -- In some ways, Angels second baseman Howie Kendrick and shortstop Erick Aybar will always be fused at the hip -- and not just because they're double-play partners. They came up through the system together, established themselves in the Majors at about the same time, agreed to similar contract extensions this year, struggled at the start of this season and now, with September at the doorstep, have turned things around with recent surges. Kendrick signed a four-year, $33.5 million extension on Jan. 9, then batted .241 and dropped out of the top of the lineup in April. But he's batting .344 in August and heads into Thursday's series finale against the Red Sox on a 15-game hitting streak.
Aybar signed a four-year, $35 million deal on April 19 -- after already agreeing to a contract for 2012 -- but was hitting below the Mendoza Line through mid-May. Since coming off the disabled list in early August, though, Aybar sports a .354 batting average and has looked a lot like the Gold Glove shortstop of a year ago. "When you're talking about contract extensions that cover a four- or five-year period, to try to measure them in two months or six months or even one season, it's foolish to do that, frankly," Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto said. "Where do we stand today on Howie Kendrick and Erick Aybar? We feel just as strongly about them today as we did in November and December and January. These guys are good players." And, with what would have been their free-agent offseasons only a couple of months away, Aybar and Kendrick once again look like bargains. Kendrick, currently hitting .292 with a .332 on-base percentage while slugging .405, would've been far and away the best second baseman available this winter. With the Rangers' Ian Kinsler (five years, $75 million) and the Reds' Brandon Phillips (six years, $72.5 million) signing extensions in early April, Kendrick could've been highly coveted in a free-agent pool that only sports the likes of Jeff Keppinger, Freddy Sanchez and Skip Schumaker. To this day, Kendrick isn't the least bit curious. "No, because I think the contract that I have is more than enough to have my family set straight," he said. "I don't think that was really one of my biggest worries. Every guy at some point may hit free agency. After this contract, maybe I'll get there. Maybe not. That remains to be seen. But I think the biggest thing was being happy where I play at. Why go out there and experiment with something when I already know where I fit in?" Aybar has a similar perspective. The switch-hitting speedster currently sports a .276/.313/.406 slash line at a premium position and would've been the cream of a very thin crop of available shortstops -- a short list that includes Stephen Drew and the Angels' own Maicer Izturis. Jhonny Peralta has an affordable $6 million club option for next year, and the win-now Tigers are likely to pick it up. "I never cared much for [free agency]," Aybar recently said in Spanish. "I like it here, I feel good here and I want to win. That's it." It's a refreshing approach, similar to the one Jered Weaver took when he signed his team-friendly extension last August. And it's good for business. "Right now, Howie and Erick are both performing compensatory to or above what has been their career norm," Dipoto said. "Therefore, by and large, they've delivered exactly what we thought we were going to be getting. You'd like to see steady from beginning to end, but that's just not the way the game works often times. Very happy with the way they're playing right now. They're two solid players at positions that are typically tough positions to fill."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.