WASHINGTON -- The Nationals added bench depth Friday night by acquiring infielder/outfielder Howie Kendrick from the Phillies for left-handed pitching prospect McKenzie Mills, now ranked No. 24 on Philadelphia's Top 30 Prospects list per MLBPipeline.com. Washington also received cash in the deal and sent international amateur signing bonus pool space
WASHINGTON -- The Nationals added bench depth Friday night by acquiring infielder/outfielder Howie Kendrick from the Phillies for left-handed pitching prospect McKenzie Mills, now ranked No. 24 on Philadelphia's Top 30 Prospects list per MLBPipeline.com. Washington also received cash in the deal and sent international amateur signing bonus pool space to Philadelphia.
Kendrick boosts the Nationals' right-handed hitting off the bench, and he comes at a crucial time with Chris Heisey and Ryan Raburn on the disabled list. Washington's bench has been short since top-of-the-order hitters Trea Turner and Jayson Werth went down with injuries.
The Nationals only had three healthy outfielders on their roster with Werth, Michael Taylor, Heisey and Raburn injured, so Kendrick should help Washington maintain its 13 1/2-game lead in the National League East before the starters return. The 34-year-old has played left field the past two seasons, so the Nats won't need to rely on first baseman Adam Lind to start there every day; instead, they can move him to his normal pinch-hitting role.
Heisey was the Nationals' top reserve right-handed hitter, but he's hitting .162 in 38 games this year. The Nats will have an array of options off the bench when their roster is healthy between Kendrick, Lind, Heisey, Raburn, Stephen Drew, Brian Goodwin and Jose Lobaton, as they'll likely need to send one or two of those players to the Minor Leagues.
"It's great, because you always get an opportunity when you are going into a race or being traded to a team in first place already," Kendrick said. "You have a good chance to make the postseason, and that's what you live for. Our ultimate goal as players is to win a World Series. I couldn't think of a better place to be going to."
Kendrick is slashing .340/.397/.454 in 39 games this season, a small sample size due to abdominal and left hamstring injuries he suffered. A pitch smacked his hand Wednesday, but he's not expected to go to the DL.
He's hitting .290 over his 12-year career, and has played a combined 30 postseason games with the Dodgers and Angels.
The Nationals made bullpen improvement their priority before Monday's non-waiver Trade Deadline, and they acquired veteran relievers Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson last week. But with the recent outfield injuries, the Nats are willing to give up a promising prospect to improve their bench for a playoff run.
Mills, the Nationals' 18th-round Draft pick in 2014, was 12-2 with a 3.01 ERA in 18 starts with Class A Hagerstown this season, and he was promoted to Class A Advanced Potomac this week.
"I've known Dusty Baker for quite a while now, and I've always been an admirer of his," Kendrick said of the Nats' manager. "I've spoken to him on a few occasions and said that I would like the chance to play for him at some point. It was kind of cool that I could play for Dusty and play for the Nationals."
Kyle Melnick is a reporter for MLB.com based in Washington.