Washington Nationals: Looking ahead to the team’s 2019/20 free agents
By Blake Finney
After the Brian Dozier deal, Howie Kendrick has now been relegated to a bench role with the Washington Nationals in 2019. It’s a role that he thrived in with the team in parts of 2017 and 2018, but it also makes him somewhat expendable after his contract expires.
Since he was acquired from the Philadelphia Phillies for McKenzie Mills in 2017, Kendrick has slashed .297/.337/.484 as a rotation player. He’s even put up a reasonable .690 OPS as a pinch hitter with the Nats when the league average for pinch hitters was .640 in 2018.
He did have the chance to open the 2018 season as the primary second baseman with Daniel Murphy hurt, however, those plans were curtailed when he suffered an Achilles injury early in the season. While that allowed Juan Soto to emerge, it leaves Kendrick’s future up in the air.
First off, he has to navigate the rehabilitation process this spring, as Achilles injuries aren’t easy to overcome, let alone for someone who will be 36 next season. All signs are positive so far, though the injury will restrict Kendrick’s defensive ability, reducing his value as a utility man.
Therefore, if we assume that Carter Kieboom will claim the second base job before the 2020 season, the Nats may be best off letting Kendrick go. Perhaps the veteran ends up with an American League team that can find more ABs for him down the road that will allow him to continue to be effective.
Prediction: Howie Kendrick will depart in free agency