Washington Nationals: Phillies ship Howie Kendrick for Mills

PHOENIX, AZ - JUNE 23: Howie Kendrick
PHOENIX, AZ - JUNE 23: Howie Kendrick /

The Washington Nationals bolstered their bench Friday night scoring Howie Kendrick from the Philadelphia Phillies. How will he fit in?

In a surprise move late Friday night, the Washington Nationals traded for Philadelphia Phillies utility player Howie Kendrick.

In return, the Phillies will pay most of the $4 million owed Kendrick this year and get McKenzie Mills, a decent minor-league starting pitcher. Kendrick is a free agent after the season finishes.

Able to play left field and all but short in the infield, Kendrick is another solid piece for a bench overflowing in depth. Until last year, his primary position was second base. At 34, he spent the bulk of career with the Los Angeles Angels before moving up I-5 to the Dodgers in 2015 and Philadelphia this season.

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Injuries have kept Kendrick limited in action this year. Playing in 39 games with the moribund Phillies, he carries a superb slash line of .340/.397/.454. The .851 OPS adjusts to 125, the highest mark since his All-Star season with the Angels in 2011.

He does not have a home run swing, only two this year, but Kendrick is a doubles machine with speed. His eight in limited action makes him a threat. With eight stolen bases, he can replace some of the threat lost when Adam Eaton went down for the season.

Kendrick has a mountain of postseason experience. The Angels made the playoffs four times during his tenure while the Dodgers did both of his years at Chavez Ravine. Versus the Nats last season, he went 3-of-9 for a double in four games.

This year with the Phillies, Kendrick played primarily in left with a few games at second thrown in. A decent second baseman, he gives the Nats an additional option if Daniel Murphy needs a day off, but he will grab the bulk of his playing time spelling Jayson Werth upon his return.

Dangerous making contact, his BAbip this season is .418. The Phillies slotted him second in their order and Dusty Baker will likely follow. With his speed, it would not be a surprise to see him leadoff. When Trea Turner return, the Nats have two base stealers giving an incredible offense another dimension.

Unless another trade is in the works, Ryan Raburn or the injured Chris Heisey look to be the odd man out for Washington. Kendrick’s role with the Nats is outfield depth with infield experience thrown in. This certainly ends Wilmer Difo’s experiment in the outfield.

The Phillies score the hard-throwing Mills in return. In his first full season of A-ball with Hagerstown, he is 12-2 with an impressive 3.01 ERA. Over 104.2 innings, he fanned 118 while walking 22. The lefty will earn notice when Philly’s minor-league system is reexamined.

Next: Grading Rizzo's biggest trades

Mills is a steep price for a rental. But, these are the bit moves that pay off for Mike Rizzo and the front office. Kendrick costs the major-league minimum the rest of the way while offering contact, speed and slight power.