PHILADELPHIA -- Manager Pete Mackanin said the Phillies needed to find at least one professional hitter this offseason.The Phils believe they found one Friday. The team announced it had traded Darin Ruf and Darnell Sweeney to the Dodgers for Howie Kendrick. Kendrick, 33, will be the team's everyday left fielder,
PHILADELPHIA -- Manager Pete Mackanin said the Phillies needed to find at least one professional hitter this offseason.
The Phils believe they found one Friday. The team announced it had traded Darin Ruf and Darnell Sweeney to the Dodgers for Howie Kendrick. Kendrick, 33, will be the team's everyday left fielder, although he spent the majority of his 11-year career at second base.
"There may not be a more professional hitter than Howie Kendrick," Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said in a telephone interview. "He's the definition of a professional hitter. He's been steady his entire career. He's one of the hardest-working guys in the league, and he can hit anywhere in the lineup and be productive. Pete and I have spoken over the past several months. This is the type of player that we really wanted to add to our lineup. I think Howie is going to have a legitimate impact on our young group."
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Kendrick hit .255 with eight home runs, 40 RBIs and a .691 OPS last season. He posted a combined .758 OPS the previous five seasons with the Angels and Dodgers, which was 14 percent above league average. The Phils believe Kendrick can return to prior form with regular playing time, something he lacked this season with the Dodgers.
"We believe Howie Kendrick is definitely a candidate to have a bounceback year," Klentak said. "A lot of the underlying more advanced statistics would suggest he got a bit unlucky last year."
Kendrick had a .301 BABIP last season, compared to a .342 BABIP in 2015, .347 in '14 and .340 in '13.
Kendrick was attractive to the Phillies, not only because they believe he can provide a much needed veteran presence in the lineup and clubhouse, but because he can play multiple positions and because he is in the final year of a two-year, $20 million contract. He will make $10 million next season.
Kendrick's ability to play multiple positions is important because the Phils plan to place several players on the 40-man roster in advance of next month's Rule 5 Draft. Some of those players might not reach the big leagues next year, which means the team will have less flexibility with its 25-man roster. Having an everyday player like Kendrick who can play multiple positions could come in handy.
"That's something -- just in terms of general roster management -- that is going to be very important to us this year," Klentak said. "The versatility that the [trade] brings to our team is a huge benefit."
But could Kendrick also be insurance if they trade César Hernández?
"We are not looking to trade Cesar Hernandez," Klentak said.
The fact that the Phillies' commitment to Kendrick expires after next season is beneficial, too. The Phils prefer players with short-term contracts because their priority is giving their young players as much playing time as possible. Signing somebody like free-agent Ian Desmond, who would require a multiyear deal, would give Philadelphia no flexibility to do that.
"I talked a lot at the GM Meetings this week about our goal to improve, but also if at all possible not to block the development timelines of our young players," Klentak said.
With Kendrick in left field and Odúbel Herrera in center, it makes for an interesting competition this spring in right field. The group of competitors includes Aaron Altherr and Roman Quinn. Of course, the Phillies could still add another corner outfielder to the mix, too.
"That is still to be determined," Klentak said. "We will continue to have dialogue with agents and other teams to see what opportunities exist. If there's an opportunity that fits what we're trying to do, we'll likely explore it. And if not, then we won't. But I think our broader goal of making sure that we continue to do everything we can to improve the 2017 club remains. I would expect us to continue to pursue opportunities."
Fantasy spin | Fred Zinkie (@FredZinkieMLB)
After playing mostly second base over his first 10 years in the Majors, Kendrick showed newfound versatility by making more than 10 appearances at four defensive positions last season. While his counting-stat contributions will likely remain unremarkable in 2017, the veteran could rebound in the batting-average department (career-low .255 average in 2016) if his BABIP moves closer to his lifetime .337 mark (.301 BABIP in '16). Expected to hold a full-time role with the Phillies, Kendrick should produce enough to help those in NL-only formats and 15-team mixed leagues.
Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and listen to his podcast.