WASHINGTON — Howie Kendrick has spent most of his career at second base, but he’ll likely be playing a lot of left field in the coming months.
The Nationals traded minor-league pitcher McKenzie Mills, an 18th-round pick in 2014, for Kendrick on Friday with the assumed goal of adding depth behind Jayson Werth, who is struggling to return from a toe injury that was compounded by a foot fracture.
Kendrick, an All-Star in 2011, has played in just 39 games this season due to a variety of injuries, but he’s hitting .340 with 2 home runs, 16 RBIs, 8 doubles, 8 stolen bases and 30 strikeouts. He had previously hit above .285 in five consecutive seasons before dropping down to .255 last year, and he’s hit at least 20 doubles in each of his 11 MLB seasons prior to 2017.
Kendrick just turned 34 earlier this month and is only under contract for the remainder of the season.
“It’s great because they’re in first place and have a good chance to make the postseason,” Kendrick said, per ESPN. “That’s what we 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.”
Whenever Werth comes back, Kendrick will likely head to the bench, where he could offer a veteran presence for key late-game situations. He offers a little power (97 career home runs), a little speed (119 career stolen bases) and a lot of ability to make contact (.290 career average), often for extra bases (305 career doubles, 35 career triples).
Alternatively, if Kendrick is playing well when Werth returns and no other trades are made, the Nationals might consider moving either Kendrick or Werth to right field and leaving the other in left, then moving Bryce Harper from right field to center field.
Ever since Adam Eaton went down with a likely season-ending injury, Washington has struggled to get consistent production from the center field position.
Michael A. Taylor was hitting .278 with 12 home runs and 10 stolen bases before getting injured in mid-July. He is expected to be back in the next week or so, but if he can’t regain his previous luster, it’ll be up to Brian Goodwin (.246 with 10 home runs) or Andrew Stevenson (1 for 5 as a pro) to take over center field duties.
Of course, it will likely have more to do with health than production at this point.