Kendrick acquired to pump up offense
Not much of a question that the Phillies needed a reliable veteran hitter to man one of their corner outfield spots. One long and repeatedly painful season of looks at what they didn’t get offensively out of their left fielders and right fielders in 2016 was enough to tell you that.
But general manager Matt Klentak was in a tell-all mood Friday after acquiring Howie Kendrick from the Los Angeles Dodgers. Not only does Klentak think he brought in a veteran hitter to be his every-day left fielder, he seems to be expecting a little more than that.
“There may not be a more professional hitter than Howie Kendrick,” Klentak raved after shipping failed prospect of the recent past Darin Ruf and marginal prospect Darnell Sweeney to L.A. for Kendrick. “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 (Mackanin) 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.”
Kendrick, 33, hit .255 with eight home runs and 40 RBIs last season, compiling a .691 OPS along the way. In stints with the Angels and Dodgers, he has played the bulk of his career at second base, but Klentak is sure he’s going to be a solid outfielder.
“The plan right now is that Howie Kendrick will be our every day left fielder. But for a young roster, especially with us likely to add many young players to our 40-man roster, having a player on the 25-man who has the ability to play left field, first base, second base, third base, really does provide Pete with a lot of flexibility from a game to game basis,” Klentak said. “That’s something that, just in terms of general roster management, is going to be very important to us this year. And Howie Kendrick can play all of those positions. The versatility that the brings to our team is a huge benefit.”
Klentak acknowledged that Kendrick had a down season last year; he is a career .289 hitter. But the 11-year veteran lost his regular role at second after Chase Utley arrived from the Phillies and according to the Los Angeles Times, Kendrick may have been unhappy in his utility role.
The Dodgers, apparently looking to cut salary, traded Carlos Ruiz to Seattle earlier in the week. The two trades could save them about $13 million. They will likely look to use Ruf, 30, in a utility role.
Meanwhile, Klentak is looking for Kendrick to return to form, calling him, “a candidate to have a bounce-back year.
“A lot of the underlying, more advanced statistics would suggest he got a bit unlucky last year,” Klentak said. “He’s still very good at squaring up the baseball and making solid contact. I think the fact that we will commit regular playing time to him will allow him to be more comfortable from game to game. And just the fact that he’s a good hitter gives us confidence that he will be very productive next year.”