An Incremental Improvement

In a move that shows just how easy it is to improve the Phillies’ roster, Matt Klentak struck yet another trade in the early offseason. Howie Kendrick will bring his league average bat to Philadelphia, presumably to play a league average left field, and to run the bases in a somewhat league average manner. Heading to LA are the inexplicably divisive Darin Ruf and a confused Darnell Sweeney, who was reportedly last seen mumbling to himself, “No…the Dodgers traded me…to the Phillies.”

To briefly cover the departed, there are two points to make. One: Ruf was on the verge of being non-tendered by the Phillies, with rumors abound that he was brushing up on his Japanese. And two: Sweeney, at age 26, has now played two seasons at AAA, and is yet to crack the 100 wRC+ mark at the level. In other words, hardly a significant loss.

As to what the Phillies gained in this transaction, it’s beneficial to know where they were starting from. Observe, the 2016 WAR totals for the Phillies’ three outfield positions:

1. Left Field: -1.5 WAR
2. Center Field: 4.2 WAR
3. Right Field: -1.3 WAR

The current projections have Kendrick pegged for approximately 1.5 WAR per 600 PA. If Kendrick slots into left field and performs as the evil projection computers have commanded him to, this is an almost three win improvement as compared to last year’s production at the position.

That’s a bit misleading, however, as to the actual value the Phillies gained in this transaction. Prior to bringing Kendrick into the fold, their expected left field production – from the Cody Asche, Aaron Altherr, Roman Quinn triumvirate – hovered somewhere around replacement level. Kendrick is still an improvement, just of the smaller, incremental variety.

An added value from Kendrick is that he also brings a little bit of versatility on defense. Although he’s slated as the regular left fielder, Kendrick can play all three of the non-shortstop infield positions. This gives the Phillies some room to be creative through the rest of the offseason, as well as some roster flexibility once the season begins. He can be shifted around if injuries arise, players underperform, or prospects – in a manner unfamiliar to the Phillies – force their hand.

It would be going way too far to call the move brilliant, and it certainly lacks in excitement level. But it is another shrewd move by Klentak, scavenging better teams for capable players on short term deals, all while giving up nothing of consequence.

And if you are a hater of pop-ups, then Kendrick is your man: he hasn’t hit one since 2013.

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  1. Andrew R.

    November 12, 2016 03:34 PM

    I don’t think it’s unreasonable to see a .280/.330 line from Kendrick out of the 2-hole in the Phillies lineup. Maybe he’s extra motivated Ina contract year, in a hitter’s ballpark and does a little bit better. It’s a good move, and hopefully this helps leads to other good moves.

    • Wood

      November 12, 2016 03:58 PM

      He had an absolute horrific start to last season and so they look worse than they should – perhaps he was bumming about turning down the QO and not getting many bits so having to crawl back to the Dodgers on a reduced deal. He tailed off a bit towards the end too, but they made him learn a bunch of positions, wasn’t starting all the time.

  2. Wood

    November 12, 2016 03:52 PM

    Hope Kendrick isn’t superstitious; pretty sure he’s going to start popping up now

      • Wood

        November 12, 2016 04:02 PM

        Good clip. Kendrick is well known for spending 40 min. everyday with a tee set up for an inside pitch but still trying to force the ball to the right side with back spin. This guy works hard, is quiet, has a short stroke & plays 2B – hmmm – he’ll be good for the kids (& Matt
        Stairs) on the team.

      • Steve Smith

        November 14, 2016 08:32 PM

        Very professional hitter, hopefully he can rub off one some youngsters. Franco and Herrera could learn quite a bit from him.

  3. Bob

    November 12, 2016 06:24 PM

    CSN Philly is signaling that the Phils might trade Cesar. If he’s traded, Howie can fill in at second base until Crawford is ready. Then Galvis can move to 2B and Howie to LF or, by then, traded to a contender.

    • Romus

      November 13, 2016 10:21 AM

      Kendrick is a probably , at this point in his career, strictly a stop-gap, temp fill-in, type of 2nd baseman. He could be exposed if asked to play there for an extended period of time. Does he like playing LF? I hope so.
      But his bat (BA +OBP) in the middle of the lineup should benefit all the youngsters.

      • Bob

        November 14, 2016 01:06 PM

        Kendrick is not a good 2B. But I really don’t care at this point. I think Crawford will be up sooner rather than later, and Galvis can slide over to 2B. Kendrick can be traded at that time or moved to LF then.

        If we can get a nice haul for Cesar, we should get while the gettings-good. This team is not going to compete next year, and I’d rather continue to load up on prospects. I don’t think that Cesar’s value will hold for much longer, and he’s going to be relegated to the bench soon. Short term pain (Kendrick at 2B) for long term gain (a nice prospect).

  4. Jerry Spradlin

    November 13, 2016 05:49 PM

    I like this – Kendrick’s BABIP and line drive rate from last year suggest he hit into more hard outs than normal. Seems the average and OBP should rebound, though he is on the downside of his career.

  5. J kwiatkowski

    November 14, 2016 09:26 AM

    Left field , especially at CBP, is a spot that needs to be filled by a power bar. If this guy is bench help it’s good, if he’s a left fielder, keep looking.

  6. Bubba0101

    November 14, 2016 04:58 PM

    Incremental improvement at all the positions where we need incremental improvement could translate to 7-10 more wins. And its moves like this that will set the bar higher for any prospect to want to make the jump to the big leagues for a starting role. I think its a great move.

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