Howie Kendrick Looks Like a Leader
When the Phillies traded for Howie Kendrick in the offseason, the idea was to bring in a steady veteran with the leadership qualifications to help guide a roster of young works-in-progress. So far, so good.
The Phillies have tons of money to spend, but this winter, they opted instead to infuse the clubhouse with some much-needed (and reasonably affordable) experience. At 33 years of age, Kendrick has plenty of that, along with a consistent bat and an absurd degree of fielding versatility. At present, Yahoo! Fantasy lists him as eligible to play 1B, 2B, 3B and LF. And quite frankly, if the Clay Buchholz injury is at all serious, I’d also be willing to throw him out on the mound and see what he can do every fifth day.
Making a Great First Impression
The Phillies’ new leftfielder came out of the gate swinging a sharp bat, collecting 11 hits and 4 walks in 31 ABs, good for an early slash of .355/.429./.516. Across the first 8 games, Kendrick looks like a guy who’s ready to lead by action and example.
Phillies General Manager Matt Klentak sent Darin Ruf and Darnell Sweeney to the Dodgers in the offseason in exchange for Kendrick. It may prove to be a savvy under-the-radar move. Bothered by nagging but minor injuries at both the start and finish of 2016, Kendrick toiled his way to a .255/.326/.366 slash.
It was the worst year of an otherwise consistent career.
The Phillies are hoping they end up with something a lot closer to Kendrick’s career line of .290/.333/.418. If he does approach those numbers, he’ll look like a pretty solid bargain.
As the least productive offense in baseball last year, the Phillies could obviously use Kendrick’s consistency. But the real plan with Howie was to bring in a player who makes those around him better as well. The Phillies have the fortune of young talent, but last year’s mixed bag of terrifying lows, dizzying highs, and creamy middles revealed just how badly the team is in need of mentorship.
This is not only the role that Klentak and manager Pete Mackanin envision for Howie, but the role that the veteran wants to play.
Reflecting on the generous tutelage he received from teammates Vladimir Guerrero and Tim Salmon as a 22-year-old rookie for the Angels in 2006, Kendrick has gamely stepped into the void. Despite being new to South Philly, he is already a vocal clubhouse presence.
Of the team’s promising but young makeup, Kendrick recently told reporters, “they have great talent here, a lot of young guys who can play the game. I think that because they’re so young, they don’t necessarily have anybody to look to as far as understanding the game and growing in the game. If we all get moving in the right direction and play the game the right way and play hard, I think we can do a lot of good things.”
In other words, Kendrick is here both to offer tips on the finer points of the game and to ride lollygaggers for trotting casually to first base on routine fly balls. Some of the younger players in the clubhouse have already expressed their appreciation. Third baseman Maikel Franco is among them. The deeply talented but still unpolished young player said “He’s helped me a lot…I’m close to him. He wants to help me, and I can learn from him. He’s been around the league. He knows a lot about hitting. As a young player, that’s what I’m looking for. That’s what I’m trying to figure out. Talking to him about hitting and situations, that’s what I’m looking for right now.”
For a guy who’s only here on the second year of a two-year contract, Kendrick’s potential long-term value is already coming into view. Whether he is a part of the Phillies’ immediate future or a profitable bargaining chip as the team approaches this summer’s trade deadline, Howie Kendrick looks like a guy who could really steer the organization’s young talent in the right direction.