Veteran Howie Kendrick intends to suit up for his 16th Major League season and perhaps more, as Kendrick tells The Athletic’s Britt Ghiroli (Twitter links) that he is hoping to play “at least” one more year. Kendrick implied via an Instagram post earlier this month that he was planning to return, and he told Ghiroli that he had already received some interest on the free agent market.
The Nationals declined their end of a $6.5MM mutual option on Kendrick’s services for 2021, instead paying him a $2.25MM buyout. The decision wasn’t too surprising in the wake of an unremarkable year for the 37-year-old, who hit .275/.320/.385 over 100 plate appearances for Washington in 2020. Kendrick was hampered by a hamstring injury and two lost weeks of Summer Camp preparation due to COVID-19 quarantine.
Barring another deal between Kendrick and the Nats, those numbers could end Kendrick’s tenure in the District on something of a down note, though his overall time with the team was a huge success. Kendrick hit .316/.361/.511 over 808 PA in a Nationals uniform since first joining the team in July 2017, twice re-upping on free agent contracts. This stint was highlighted, naturally, by Kendrick’s NLCS MVP performance in 2019, and his two-run homer in the seventh inning of Game 7 of the World Series that put Washington ahead for good as the club captured its first championship.
With this much recent success in mind, Kendrick wasn’t ready to end his career given the abbreviated nature of the 2020 season. He said last fall that he was originally intending to retire if 2020 had been a normal season, but “to think you would end on a year like this … it is a tough one.”
The “professional hitter” tag has often been applied to Kendrick over his 15 seasons with the Nationals, Phillies, Dodgers, and Angels, as he has delivered a .294/.337/.430 career slash line and been an above-average (109 wRC+ and OPS) offensive performance for much of that time. Beginning his career as a second baseman, Kendrick has also evolved into a versatile defensive asset, able to be plugged in at first base, third base, and even corner outfield duty as well as continued work at the keystone. Though Kendrick played only first base and DH last season, he told Ghiroli that it doesn’t matter to him whether or not the National League once again institutes the designated hitter in 2021.