It’s not often that MLB players have career years in their mid-30’s, but that’s precisely what free agent Howie Kendrick pulled off at 36 during the 2019 season. At least, his rate stats were the single best of his career, as he hit a whopping .344/.395/.572 for the Washington Nationals on their path to being World Series champs.
So, it’s not at all surprising that there is early interest across the league in picking up the versatile veteran, and apparently the Cincinnati Reds are among his suitors. So sayeth the combo of Britt Ghiroli and Ken Rosenthal from The Athletic, at least:
Add #Reds to list of teams that want Howie Kendrick. #Marlins, #Rays also in, per @Britt_Ghiroli. Nothing close at this point.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) November 10, 2019
A few things are worth digging into in this early, initial potential target of the Reds.
While those rate stats up top that Kendrick posted were quite shiny, they came in just 370 PA, as Kendrick was used a ton against LHP (though he did post quite good numbers against RHP, too). And while Kendrick cut his chops as a 2B during a nearly decade-long run with the Los Angeles Angels, he’s spent significantly less time there in recent years, logging just 88 total starts at the position over the last four seasons while instead getting time at LF, 3B, and 1B. Still, he managed to bonk 17 dingers in that limited action, the second most in any season of his career (and the most he’s hit since he swatted 18 in 2011).
In other words, interest in Kendrick, 37 next summer, doesn’t scream the Reds want him to fill the void at 2B for 2020. If anything, he’d likely be brought on in a role similar to the one he’s filled the last few seasons, which would still jive pretty well with the versatility-driven Reds under David Bell. Perhaps he could even pick up time against some tough LHP at 1B to spell Joey Votto, which is an idea we’ve explored several times at RR over the last few months.
Considering the current most likely bench options for the Reds are a combo of Phillip Ervin, Alex Blandino, Josh VanMeter, Kyle Farmer, and Jose Peraza, bringing in a more sure-thing like Kendrick for what is supposed to end up a playoff-caliber team in 2020 certainly makes some sense, although it’s inevitable that Kendrick, a career .294/.337/.431 hitter, is going to begin to decline sometime in the very near future, though that certainly didn’t come in 2019.
Regardless, this is one more example of the Reds appearing to be as active as they’ve suggested they would be this all-important offseason, and that’s a positive development.