According to various media outlets, the Washington Nationals have signed Howie Kendrick to a 2-year pact worth $7 million guaranteed, along with an additional $2.25 million in incentives. Washington acquired Kendrick last July in an inter-division trade with Philadelphia for prospect McKenzie Mills and international bonus money.
The 34-year-old Kendrick battled injuries much of last season, playing only 91 games for Philadelphia and Washington while hitting .315/.368/.475 with 9 home runs. In particular Kendrick was invaluable for the Nationals, batting .293/.343/.494 and played four different defensive positions. For his 12-year career, Kendrick owns a .291/.334/.421 batting line with 104 home runs and 123 stolen bases. He has impressive barrel skills and a compact right-handed swing, allowing him to be an easy plus hitter. Additionally, Kendrick has added some defensive versatility in his later years, seeing time at first, second and third base plus both corner outfield spots. He is not a great defender, but his speed, athleticism and reasonable throwing arm allow him to be passable at each position.
Kendrick should provide valuable depth early this season at second base while Daniel Murphy recovers from offseason knee surgery, and act as a vital pinch-hitter off the bench. Not to mention Kendrick will serve as a starting-quality backup behind Adam Eaton, Anthony Rendon and Ryan Zimmerman, each of whom have had injury issues in the past.
Although the Hot Stove feels rather frigid this winter, the Nationals have done a nice job securing three veterans (Kendrick, Matt Adams & Brandon Kintzler) to fill voids on the roster at reasonable prices. Overall there is very little to quibble with this signing, although Kendrick does have some risks involved in his profile. He will turn 35 this season and just completed his best offensive season in six years, leading to the obvious conclusion some regression is coming this season offensively. However, Kendrick is a born hitter with natural athleticism, giving plenty of hope he should continue to be productive the next two years. And considering Washington needed additional depth and made only a $7 million total guarantee, this is a terrific signing for the Nationals to secure Kendrick through 2019.
NatsGM Overall Grade -> A- / B+