Each of us are put here on the earth to do one specific thing. While it may take some time to find out what that one specific thing is, rest assured, it is out there waiting to be found. Howie Kendrick has already found his one specific thing. Kendrick was placed on this planet to be a professional baseball hitter who bats .285 or better every single season. He gets a hit nearly every game, and will not give an at-bat away.
In ten years in the Major Leagues, Kendrick has batted below .285 only one time, with his seasonal batting average rarely falling more than 10 points below his career average of .293. Over the past three seasons, Kendrick has batted .297, .293, and .295, with equally consistent on-base percentages. In 1,198 career games, Kendrick has 1,341 hits, while also providing a little pop, with four double-digit home run seasons.
For whatever reason (and we may never fully know the answer), Brandon Phillips will not be going to the Washington Nationals. The stars seemed aligned for the All-Star second baseman to reunite with Dusty Baker on Baker’s new team, but the trade talks appear to be off at this point. It’s possible Phillips was demanding too much in return for waiving his no-trade rights (the MLBPA has fought hard for those rights, and Phillips would not give them up for nothing). The Cincinnati Reds were not likely the team holding up the deal, as they could not have expected a huge prospect haul for Phillips. It’s quite possible Phillips wanted two more years added to his contract in exchange for giving up his 10-and-5 rights. Washington had already pursued Ben Zobrist with a four-year deal this offseason, and it does not seem plausible two more years could not be given to Phillips. Both sides will move on, and Phillips will likely still find a new home at some point.
The Nationals are now left to move onto another second base target after missing out on Zobrist and Phillips and trading Yunel Escobar. There are seemingly two options on the market — Kendrick and Daniel Murphy. Neither Kendrick or Murphy can be confused for outstanding fielders. As a second baseman, both leave a little something to be desired with the glove. Offensively, they are very similar. Kendrick and Murphy both walk quite infrequently, put the ball quite regularly, and hit for a little power. Murphy is one of the better hitters in the league when it comes to making contact, but his playoff power surge will fool at least one team into believing he can be a 20-homer threat. That is not the case, unless the Colorado Rockies pony up the money.
Having missed out on Ben Zobrist, Jason Heyward, and now Brandon Phillips, the Washington Nationals should be careful with their money. Howie Kendrick is the safer bet than Daniel Murphy when it comes to second base. There have been some minor injury concerns over the past three seasons, but those small nicks and dings have not done anything to diminish the consistent production of Kendrick. Over three-times-out-of-ten, he will find his way aboard.
Brandon Phillips is in decline at this point of his career, and the .294 average he posted last season should be viewed as an aberration rather than the norm. The 2013 and 2014 seasons saw Phillips’ power and abilities as a basestealer begin to wane. He recovered the stolen bases and batting average in 2015, but the power is still lacking. A .270 batting average should be seen as an exceeding of expectations for Phillips as he wraps up a very good career.
For Howie Kendrick, .294 is the norm, and nothing lower should realistically be expected. The Nationals should be able to get him on a three-year deal (assuming the Los Angeles Angels do not step up for a reunion) at roughly the same annual cost of Phillips. All things considered, Kendrick is a very safe bet for the Nationals — a safer bet than Phillips and Murphy. As the Nationals continue to take a winding road to their everyday second baseman for 2016 and beyond, their path may ultimately lead them to the safest option, Howie Kendrick.