Washington Nationals Free Agent Target: Howie Kendrick

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With Brandon Phillips not coming to Washington, could the Nats go the free agent route and sign Howie Kendrick as their new second baseman?

Now that Brandon Phillips is not coming to the Washington Nationals, who will be the player that ends up starting at second base in 2016? One of those options is free agent second baseman Howie Kendrick. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports and MLB Network reported yesterday that Kendrick could be one of the fallback options for the Nats at second base:

This past season with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Kendrick had a slash line of .295/,336/.409 in 117 games with nine home runs and 54 RBI’s. His 464 at-bats in 2015 were the fewest he has had in any season since 2009 with the Angels (374). His production with Los Angeles was a drop off compared to what it was when he was in the American League.

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Before being traded to the Dodgers last offseason for starting pitcher Andrew Heaney, Kendrick had spent his nine prior seasons with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. During those nine years, he had a career slash line of .292/.332/.424 with 78 home runs and 501 RBI’s. He made one All-Star team back in 2011, when he hit 18 home runs, a career-high.

However, Kendrick isn’t known for his power, but he has the ability to get on base. He has a career .333 on-base percentage and has not had one season where he has finished with a .OBP lower than .313 (2010). Just two seasons ago, his .347 .OBP was fifth in the entire league behind only Robinson Cano, Jose Altuve, Ben Zobrist, and the Nats’ Anthony Rendon.

Kendrick, who will turn 33 in July, was hitting .292 in the first half of the season with seven home runs. However, in early August, he went on the disabled list with a hamstring injury and did not return until September 19 against the Pirates. His WAR dropped from a career best 5.4 in 2014 to a career worst 1.1 in 2015.

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As far as his defense goes, Kendrick did improve in 2015 as he dropped his error total from 11 in 2014 to 5 in 2015. Coming into this past season, he had made a combined 35 errors the prior three seasons. While his errors decreased, his defensive runs saved went way down from 7 in 2014 to -12 in 2015 (according to Fangraphs).

Next: District Daily: Deal For Phillips Reportedly Off

At the beginning of the offseason, MLB Trade Rumors projected Kendrick to get a four-year, $50 million deal. Remember, the team that signs him will have to give up their first round pick in this year’s draft. As of now, the Nats will pick 17th in the first round. Kendrick would provide the Nats with another on-base threat, but heading into his age-33 season and coming off a down season, would he be worth the draft pick? I don’t think the Nats would do a four-year deal, but maybe they could get Kendrick on a two or three-year deal if the market comes to them.

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