According to a recent article written by Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer, the Tampa Bay Rays are the front runners to land Howie Kendrick.
While breaking down the Cincinnati Reds offseason needs, Nightengale discussed the veteran infielder, Howie Kendrick, and the fact that while the Reds would like to sign him, it seems more likely that he lands with the Tampa Bay Rays.
"They looked at free agent second baseman Howie Kendrick, who had a .395 on-base percentage in 370 at-bats with the Washington Nationals this season, but a league source said it’s unlikely he signs with the Reds and the Tampa Bay Rays are the frontrunners to add him."
Kendrick, who’s postseason heroics were on full display throughout October, is a native of Florida and may be looking to play his final years closer to home. At 36, the longtime Angels second baseman will likely be looking for a 1-2 year contract. He spent 2017 with the Philadelphia Phillies and the past two seasons with Washington.
Last season was his 14th in the majors and arguably his best offensive season to date. Across 370 plate appearances, Kendrick slashed .344/.395/.572 with a .966 OPS and 17 bombs. A career .294 hitter, Kendrick is no stranger to success at the plate, but in 2019 he rediscovered his power stroke.
His right-handed bat would be a welcome addition to the Rays lineup and his defensive versatility that allowed him to play first, second, and third base is a bonus. If he signs with Tampa Bay, he would likely see time at first base and as a DH, but his ability to play multiple positions would also be utilized by Kevin Cash.
MLBTR projected Kendrick to sign a two year contract worth 12 million. The Rays have the financial flexibility to offer him a contract similar to MLBTR’s projection.
If they sign Kendrick, Matt Duffy’s time in a Rays uniform would likely come to an end as Kendrick is a more versatile and productive right-handed bat.
"The 36-year-old Kendrick is well-equipped for an American League team like the Rays, with whom he’d be able to primarily serve as a first baseman/designated hitter. He’s also still versatile enough defensively to see time at second and third base."
Kendrick’s postseason pedigree and veteran leadership will also be a welcome addition in a young Rays locker room. Across eight playoffs and thirteen postseason series, Kendrick has played in 50 October games and has logged 178 plate appearances. This experience could prove invaluable to a team learning to compete on baseball’s biggest stage.
When you look at everything he has to offer, Howie Kendrick seems to be a perfect fit for the Tampa Bay Rays. Now, we will have to sit back and wait to see where he lands.