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Nationals re-sign Howie Kendrick to one-year deal

Nationals re-sign Howie Kendrick to one-year deal

Washington pulled in another important piece from the 2019 World Series roster.

Howie Kendrick and the Nationals agreed to a one-year deal with a mutual option for 2021, pending a physical, on Friday morning, NBC Sports Washington confirmed. Kendrick's deal is reportedly worth $6.25 million.

Bringing Kendrick back retains a leader, elder statesman and quality bat. Kendrick, 36, became one of the key clubhouse voices last season while also delivering a career-best .966 OPS.

He can platoon at first base with Ryan Zimmerman -- should the Nationals and Zimmerman reach an expected deal -- because of his ability to hit right-handed pitching. Last season, Kendrick's OPS was .930 against right-handed pitching (.758 career), which made him more effective against right-handers than left-handed free-agent options like Eric Thames (.877) and Mitch Moreland (.887). Washington could still pivot to a left-handed platoon compliment if it does not reach a deal with Zimmerman.

Salaries at first base will represent significant savings for Washington in 2020. Zimmerman and Matt Adams cost around $21 million in base salary last season. If Zimmerman returns to work with Kendrick, his salary should be in a similar range, dropping the team's commitment at the position by roughly $9 million or more. 

The increasing possibility of the designated hitter coming to the National League in either 2020 or 2021 is also in play here for Kendrick. 

Kendrick's 2019 season was unlikely and filled with rejuvenation. He started the year arguing he was healed from an Achilles tendon rupture in 2018. Once he joined the team after opening the season on the injured list because of hamstring problems, Kendrick took off. Davey Martinez worked not to overplay Kendrick throughout the season in order to have him for the playoffs.

There, Kendrick excelled. His 10th-inning grand slam in Game 5 in Los Angeles will long stand as one of the biggest hits in organization history.
He was named National League Championship Series MVP when Washington swept St. Louis in the next round. His Game 7 homer off the foul pole in Houston was also an enormous moment for the Nationals.

Now, he's back and helps provide clarity. The Nationals know what their catching combination is, have a good idea of what their first base combination is and are set in the outfield. The two big free-agent questions -- third base and a top-tier starting pitcher -- remain.
 

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There’s a Harper in DC again: Nationals trade for reliever Ryne Harper

There’s a Harper in DC again: Nationals trade for reliever Ryne Harper

It may have taken until Jan. 29, but the Nationals finally made their first trade of the offseason Wednesday when they acquired right-hander reliever Ryne Harper from the Minnesota Twins in exchange for 21-year-old pitching prospect Hunter McMahon.

Of course, he won’t be the first Harper to don the Curly W. He’ll have a lot of work to do if he wants to top the legacy of the former MVP now playing in Philadelphia.

Putting that aside, he’s joining the Nationals coming off a solid rookie season in which he posted a 3.81 ERA with one save and 12 holds in 61 appearances for Minnesota.

At 30 years old, Harper will certainly be a bit seasoned for a second-year player. Per Brooks Baseball, his fastball averaged out at 89.7 mph while he also mixed in healthy usage of a slider and curveball. He isn’t a big strikeout pitcher (8.3 K/9), allowing mostly grounders (38.5 percent) and flyballs (37.3 percent).

Harper was designated for assignment by the Twins to make room for Josh Donaldson on the 40-man roster. Washington was among the suitors for Donaldson; although they didn’t end up signing him, the third baseman still managed to make an impact that affected the Nationals.

McMahon was a ninth-round pick out of last year’s draft who posted a 0.71 ERA over nine appearances last season between rookie ball and Low-A Auburn.

Washington figures to give Harper a chance to compete for a bullpen spot in spring training, joining a crowded group that only has three pitchers guaranteed spots heading into the year: Sean Doolittle, Will Harris and Daniel Hudson.

After the Nationals made the trade official Wednesday, their 40-man roster is now officially full. For fans still holding out hope that Kris Bryant could be going to D.C., this trade only lowers those odds even further after Bryant lost his service-time grievance with the Chicago Cubs.

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Kris Bryant loses grievance against Cubs, chances of trade to Nationals slim

Kris Bryant loses grievance against Cubs, chances of trade to Nationals slim

Kris Bryant will remain signed with the Chicago Cubs for at least the next two seasons, although the team continues to field calls for trade proposals, ESPN reported Wednesday morning.

The Cubs have dangled Bryant in trade talks all offseason after the team signaled its desire to get under the luxury tax. Washington was rumored to have contacted Chicago about the third baseman earlier this winter, but those talks have “gone nowhere” according to The Athletic.

After incumbent third baseman Anthony Rendon signed with the Los Angeles Angels at the Winter Meetings, the Nationals pursued Josh Donaldson in free agency but ultimately refused to meet his asking price. Instead, the team re-signed infielder Asdrúbal Cabrera and will give top prospect Carter Kieboom the chance to compete against him for the starting job in spring training.

THE BIG TWENTY: LOOKING BACK AT THE START OF STRASBURG AND HARPER IN DC

Chicago retaining two years of control over Bryant raises his trade value to the point where the Nationals likely wouldn’t be able to put together a competitive offer. Washington only has one consensus top-100 prospect in Kieboom and has been hesitant to deal him in past trade discussions.

The Atlanta Braves, who lost Donaldson to the Minnesota Twins in free agency, have been rumored to be interested in Bryant and would be in a much better position to make an offer enticing enough for the Cubs to trade him. The same goes for the Texas Rangers, who are moving into a new ballpark this season and would benefit from bringing in a star like Bryant to put fans in seats.

There’s also the likelihood that Chicago holds onto Bryant to start the 2020 season. The Cubs still have most of the core that led the team to its first World Series in 108 years back in 2016 and figure to be competitive in a wide-open NL Central. If they end up struggling to start the year, they could always field calls for him at the trade deadline when there might be more suitors.

Meanwhile, the Nationals appear content with the depth they’ve accumulated at third base. In addition to Kieboom and Cabrera, Washington also signed Starlin Castro and retained Howie Kendrick—both of whom have experience at third. With the team already projected to be close to the luxury tax threshold, a move for Bryant remains unlikely.

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