WASHINGTON -- The Nationals reached an agreement on Thursday to bring back Howie Kendrick, the veteran utility man who became a valuable player off the bench after he was acquired midseason.
According to a source, the deal is reportedly worth two years and $7 million.
Kendrick, 34, impressed the Nats after he was acquired in July. He slashed .293/.343/.494 with eight homers in 52 games for Washington while playing second base and the outfield, and serving as the team's best right-handed hitter off the bench. Kendrick was seen as a rental then, but the Nats will bring him back to join their other midseason acquisitions: Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson (who were already under contract), and Brandon Kintzler (whom the team re-signed last month).
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Filling out the bench was a key priority for the Nationals entering this offseason, and Kendrick adds to the club's strong set of reserves. Kendrick will complement left-handed hitter Matt Adams, who replaces Adam Lind, to form the club's primary pinch-hitting options. Infielder Wilmer Difo, outfielder Brian Goodwin and catcher Pedro Severino are likely to round out the bench, which should be a strength for Washington again.
Kendrick also provides versatility for the Nats, and new manager Dave Martinez could find a way to keep him in the lineup if Kendrick continues to perform. He would also provide insurance at the start of the season while second baseman Daniel Murphy is recovering from offseason knee surgery. The Nationals continue to be optimistic that Murphy will be ready for Opening Day, but Kendrick could give them another reason not to rush Murphy's progress.
"Love Howie Kendrick, love what he brought us in the clubhouse with the young players," general manager Mike Rizzo said at the Winter Meetings. "He's got a good skill set. He's a guy that did nothing but great things for us between the lines and in the clubhouse."