The World Series champion Washington Nationals and Howie Kendrick, the National League Championship Series MVP, reportedly agreed to a free-agent contract on Friday.
Kendrick’s deal with the Nationals is for one year and $6.25 million, and it includes a mutual option for 2021. In 2020, he’ll make more than he did in the past two years combined — the most recent contract Kendrick signed was the two-year, $7 million deal he inked with the Nationals after the 2017 season.
A 10th-round pick in 2002, Kendrick is a .294 hitter over his 14-year career. He’s thrived in what’s become more of a part-time role. Over the past three seasons, he’s batted .325 with an .888 OPS. This past season in Washington was one of the best of his career.
During his age-35 season in 2019, Kendrick was one of the most productive hitters in Washington’s lineup. He mainly platooned at first and second base, and played 15 games at third. That setup kept him 132 plate appearances shy of the batting title, as he posted a .344 average and .966 OPS in 121 games.
Whatever was working for Kendrick persisted in the postseason. His Game 5 grand slam against the Los Angeles Dodgers buried the hopes of his former club in the NLDS. He put the Nats ahead in Game 7 of the World Series with an improbable homer off the right-field foul pole. Overall, Kendrick batted .286 with 12 total RBIs in the postseason and had four doubles and a .333 average in 15 at-bats during the four-game sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS.
His 2.6 bWAR in 2019 was his highest since his final year with the Los Angeles Angels in 2014. Kendrick was traded across town that offseason, then re-upped with the Dodgers for $20 million over two years prior to 2016. He was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies later that year, and dealt again to Washington the following summer.
Kendrick proved that he’s not yet hindered by his age. He’s sometimes shaky on defense. But he’s versatile enough to play three different positions consistently and left field on occasion. As long as his bat holds up, he can stay employed in the league for a few more years.
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