Howie Kendrick was reportedly unhappy with his role with the Dodgers, so Friday afternoon, they sent him to a new team. Los Angeles has traded Kendrick to the Phillies for first baseman Darin Ruf and utility man Darnell Sweeney, both teams announced.
"Howie Kendrick brings a proven, veteran presence to our young lineup," said GM Matt Klentak in a statement. "He is a hard worker, a great teammate and a true professional hitter. In addition, Howie's defensive versatility provides significant flexibility to our roster, which should prove to be valuable to our club in 2017. I am very pleased to welcome Howie to the Phillies."
Kendrick, 33, hit .255/.326/.366 with eight home runs in 146 games this season. He started the year very slowly before picking it up at midseason. Kendrick saw of his most action in left field, but he also played some first, second, and third base as well. He was reportedly unhappy about moving around and wanted a set position.
Here are five things to know about the trade, and how it impacts both teams.
1. Kendrick will play left field.
Prior to the 2016 season, Kendrick had spent his entire career as a full-time second baseman. Now he's a full-time left fielder. The Phillies are planning to keep Kendrick in left.
Howie Kendrick is expected to be the Phillies' everyday left fielder in 2017.— Todd Zolecki (@ToddZolecki) November 11, 2016
Philadelphia has the sneaky good Cesar Hernandez at second base. The 26-year-old hit .294/.371/.393 with six home runs and 17 stolen bases this past season, plus he played very good defense. He'll remain at second and Kendrick will stay in left.
Now, this could be posturing, of course. Hernandez's name has popped up in trade rumors recently, specifically involving the Angels. The Phillies have the option of trading Hernandez and putting Kendrick at second, or keeping Hernandez at second and putting Kendrick in left. We'll see.
2. This is a one-year marriage.
Kendrick is owed $10 million in 2017 and he will become a free agent after the season. This isn't a long-term pickup for the Phillies, which gives them some options. Four options, in fact:
- Trade him for prospects at the deadline. The Phillies are rebuilding, and if Kendrick plays well, it would behoove them to deal him for more young players at the trade deadline.
- Make him the qualifying offer. If Kendrick plays really well and the Phillies don't trade him, they could make him a qualifying offer after the season and recoup a draft pick. This is risky though. Kendrick could accept the qualifying offer, or the upcoming collective bargaining agreement could eliminate the qualifying offer entirely.
- Re-sign him. Bringing Kendrick back beyond next season is not completely out of the question. He could be a veteran mentor for the young players as the team rebuilds. It takes two to tango; Kendrick has to want to come back, but this is an option.
- Let him walk for nothing. Not ideal, but this could be a pure rental. The Phillies keep Kendrick for the year, let him play, then let him walk as a free agent without making the qualifying offer. The worst option of the four, probably.
This is a very low-risk move for the Phillies. If Kendrick plays well, they can turn him into prospects at the deadline or a draft pick after the season. If he doesn't, they can let him go after the season. Considering all it will cost them is $10 million and two fringe roster players, it's a nice roll of the dice.
3. This is the Phillies' second trade.
The offseason is young, but Kendrick is already the second veteran the Phillies have acquired via trade. Last week the team picked up reliever Pat Neshek from the Astros for cash or a player to be named later. Like Kendrick, Neshek will be a free agent after next season, so it's a one-year pickup.
Klentak and the Phillies appear to be accumulating quality veteran players with short-term contracts who: 1. can help them win in the short-term, and 2. would have trade value at the deadline. They didn't give up much at all to get Kendrick or Neshek. Both trades are very low risk and offer some potential upside. Smart moves by the rebuilding team.
4. Ruf can mash lefties.
The Dodgers figure to slide Ruf right into Kendrick's roster spot as the regular left fielder against left-handed pitchers. He can also play some first base too. (Ruf can't play second or third like Kendrick, however.)
Ruf's primary job will be hitting left-handed pitchers, and he's done that well throughout his career. The 30-year-old owns a career .299/.379/.542 batting line against southpaws. With Madison Bumgarner, Robbie Ray, Tyler Anderson, and other quality southpaws in the division, Ruf will come in handy for the Dodgers.
5. Sweeney is going back to the Dodgers.
Sweeney, 25, was originally drafted and developed by the Dodgers. They traded him to the Phillies in the Chase Utley deal last year. Now he's heading back to the team that drafted him. Sweeney spent the entire 2016 season in Triple-A, where he hit .233/.299/.345 with six home runs. He's a versatile player who could carve out a career in a utility role.