Howie Kendrick and Nationals Aim for a Repeat

Howie Kendrick can hit. Since joining the Nationals in the middle of the 2017 season, Kendrick has put up a .322/.367/.529 batting line with a 130 wRC+ that trails only Anthony Rendon, Juan Soto and Bryce Harper among Nationals with at least 500 plate appearances during that time. Kendrick put on a good show in the postseason as well, winning the NLCS MVP and then hitting a two-run homer in Game 7 of the World Series that gave the Nationals a lead they would not surrender. There appears to be a mutual interest in hoping for a repeat performance, as Kendrick and the Nationals have agreed to a one-year deal for a guaranteed $6.25 million with a mutual option, with Jesse Dougherty reporting the deal first and Bob Nightengale offering the terms.

Heading into the offseason, Kendrick was rated the 26th-best free agent on our Top 50 Free Agent List. Kiley McDaniel thought he’d get a two-year deal for roughly the same amount Kendrick is signing for, while the median crowd estimate nailed the contract with the average a little bit higher. Here’s some of what I wrote in the capsule for Kendrick at the time:

The downsides to Kendrick are pretty clear. He’s now 36 years old, and the postseason exposed some of his liabilities in the field. He’s had a bit of trouble staying healthy, and probably isn’t someone to rely on every day. But the positives are also obvious. He can hit. In 370 plate appearances, Kendrick put up a 146 wRC+, and this came after two other above-average seasons with the bat. His strikeout rate dipped down to 13% last season, making him a tough out. He is… a professional hitter. And he hits both lefties and righties well, so he doesn’t need to be on the weak side of a platoon, though he could probably fit as a designated hitter, playing two out of every three games with the occasional start in the field.

It seems likely Kendrick might have been able to get a better deal somewhere other than the Nationals, but the comfort, good feelings, and getting a deal done early might have been too much to pass up. It’s not clear what this deal might mean for Ryan Zimmerman, who had expressed interest in returning to the Nationals. Kendrick can play second base, and he might be a little better than he showed in the playoffs at first base. He could split some time between the two positions next season, but with Brian Dozier, Asdrubal Cabrera, Zimmerman, and Matt Adams all free agents, the team still has some work to do covering both positions.

The Nationals’ major focus at present involves attempting to retain one or both of Stephen Strasburg and Rendon (although they claim they could only afford to re-sign one), but bringing back Kendrick on a deal like this one is a solid move.

Craig Edwards can be found on twitter @craigjedwards.

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4 years ago

maybe the best sign yet of a good market for players… 36 yrs old getting 6.25M.