Nationals upgrade their bench, land Howie Kendrick from Phillies

The Washington Nationals made a somewhat unexpected deal to improve their bench late Friday night, acquiring infielder/outfielder Howie Kendrick from the Philadelphia Phillies for minor league lefty McKenzie Mills, who had just been promoted to Class A Potomac. The Nationals will also send international bonus pool space to the Phillies in the deal. The Phillies still owed Kendrick about a third of his $10 million salary and have sent enough cash the Nationals way to pay Kendrick’s salary down to league minimum, according to a person familiar with the situation.

Kendrick upgrades the Nationals’ right-handed hitting options off an increasingly decrepit bench decimated by injuries. Chris Heisey, batting just .162 in 79 plate appearances with a .485 OPS, is hurt. Ryan Raburn is hurt. Even if they weren’t, Kendrick would represent a major upgrade over both, a bench player with everyday experience who has a career .290 average against lefties and .292 against righties. The 34-year-old can play in the infield or outfield, and should be a key part of their bench even when everyone gets healthy. Kendrick was hit by a pitch in the hand on Wednesday, but was not expected to need a disabled list stint, according to reports from Philadelphia.

When Jayson Werth, Michael A. Taylor, and Trea Turner return, the Nationals will have decisions to make. Heisey was their main right-handed hitter off the bench, a favorite of Manager Dusty Baker and a strong clubhouse presence. But when everyone returns, that bench will consist of Kendrick, Jose Lobaton, Adam Lind, Stephen Drew, and one other outfielder — potentially Heisey or Brian Goodwin. Either way, it will be a bench deep with experienced veterans, including Kendrick, who has more than 100 postseason plate…

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