The Nationals added another veteran to their bench tonight, acquiring utilityman Howie Kendrick from the Phillies for minor league left-hander McKenzie Mills in a deal that will help alleviate recent injury concerns while providing manager Dusty Baker with more options later this season after his roster is closer to 100 percent healthy.
Kendrick is hitting .340 with two homers, 16 RBIs, a .397 on-base percentage and .851 OPS this season, but the 34-year-old has played in only 39 games due to injuries to both his abdominal and hamstring muscles. He departed Wednesday night’s game in Philadelphia after getting hit by a pitch in the hand and has been held out since, but that decision was precautionary and he is expected to be healthy enough to immediately start playing for the Nationals.
A second baseman through the majority of his career with the Angels, Kendrick has seen more time in left field the last two seasons with the Dodgers and Phillies. The Nationals have a more immediate need for him in left field, with Jayson Werth, Michael A. Taylor, Chris Heisey and Ryan Raburn all on the disabled list.
Once Werth and Taylor, in particular, return healthy, Kendrick would likely slot into a reserve role, offering Baker another experienced right-handed bat who can pinch-hit, fill in as an outfielder or give infielders Daniel Murphy or Anthony Rendon a day off.
Kendrick is owed roughly $3.3 million for the remainder of the season, but a source familiar with the trade said the Phillies will pick up the bulk of his salary. The Nationals also are sending international bonus pool money to Philadelphia as part of the deal.
Mills, an 18th-round pick in the 2014 draft, did not make any preseason top-prospect lists but he raised his stock considerably this season going 12-2 with a 3.01 ERA and 118 strikeouts in 104 2/3 innings for low-Single-A Hagerstown. That performance earned the left-hander a recent promotion to high-Single-A Potomac.
Kendrick, who will be a free agent at season’s end, told reporters at Citizens Bank Park he is particularly excited to come to Washington and play for a manager he has long appreciated from afar.
“I’ve known Dusty Baker for quite a while now, and I’ve always been an admirer of his,” Kendrick told reporters. “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.”
Kendrick is expected to join the Nationals on Saturday and be in uniform for their delayed series opener against the Rockies. He’s a career .290 hitter with a .752 OPS. He also has 30 games of postseason experience, hitting .214 with a .557 OPS in eight different series for the Angels and Dodgers.
“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,” he told reporters. “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.”