I know that we’re scraping the bottom of the barrel here, but bear with me. There are still a few days until the trade deadline, and we’re getting a clear indication that the Yankees will make some move. What that move will be depends a lot on factors they can’t control, like if the Nationals decide to give up Victor Robles, or the Dodgers decide to give up Alex Verdugo, for Sonny Gray.
As I mentioned in my previous Marco Estrada post, missing out on Gray (and Yu Darvish and Justin Verlander) would leave the Yankees in a really weird position; they can’t afford to overpay, but they really can’t afford to not make another move.
That brings me to an unconventional choice—Howie Kendrick. I get that he may be redundant with the Todd Frazier acquisition, but he has some flexibility; with the ability to play second base, left field, and first base, there’s a good chance you could find a spot for him any given day of the week.
The real key to why he might be valuable is his bat. In his career, Kendrick has eight seasons of 100+ wRC+, and of second basemen of the past decade, he ranks seventh in fWAR (27.3).
In terms of contractual obligations, it’s chump change. He’s owed $10 million in 2017 and the Phillies would likely cede most of that to retrieve a pittance in return. The question, of course, is why, and frankly, I just don’t see it as Brian Cashman’s style. I understand the pitching market is weak and Kendrick could be a cheap bat to plug in as a rental, but I see him as too repetitive in a lineup already stacked with infielders and outfielders.
There’s also the snag of Starlin Castro’s injury; if he were, for some reason, to miss more time than a ten-day stint, he could suddenly become an option. Look, in an ideal world, I’m not going for him. He has an excessively high BABIP, so he’s bound to regress, he’s pretty old, and his defense could be hit-or-miss if you’re moving him around the field.
So if Estrada puts on pinstripes in one in a hundred universes, then Kendrick puts on pinstripes in one in a thousand universes. It’s still a possibility, though, so that’s why we write about it. If Kendrick becomes an option then something went terribly wrong in the next few days, but it also means that he is a cheap, low-risk option. He’s not significantly better, or significantly worse, than a league average player.