The Seattle Mariners have had a gaping hole at first base for a while. GM Jerry Dipoto has tried to solve the problem with platoons. Could he look to do it again in 2018?
In year one, Adam Lind and Dae-Ho Lee manned the spot. This year, the Mariners employed Danny Valencia for a majority of the season before adding Yonder Alonso to make a true platoon. Dipoto seems skeptical to overspend on the position. But it seems so impractical to carry 2 true first baseman on the roster. But what if a player could platoon at first, but also in the outfield, as well as at third or second base? Enter Howie Kendrick.
Howie Kendrick, the former Los Angeles Angels second baseman, is 34-year-old infielder/outfielder. After spending the first 9 seasons of his career with the Halos, he has spent the last 2 playing for the Dodgers, Phillies, and Nationals.
A career .291/.334/.421 hitter has had a career renaissance in 2017, slashing .316/.370/.475 in 88 games. The 34-year-old appears to be reinvigorated not being asked to play everyday. Kendrick is similar to Danny Valencia, in that he can play the corner spots in both the infield and outfield. Unlike Valencia, Kendrick grades out at above average at first base, second base, left field and has some brief experience in right field and third base.
Kendrick is also a solid base runner. He does not have blazing speed, but is smart and rarely makes mistakes. He can steal 10 bases a season.
Kendrick would fill in as the right-handed side of a platoon at first. He is hitting .322 against left-handed pitching with a .901 OPS in 2017. However; Kendrick is not useless against RHP, managing a career .290 average with a .745 OPS.
Because of his ability to play multiple positions, Kendrick can also spell Robinson Cano at second and Kyle Seager at third. Both players have been among the most durable in the game, but giving them each an additional 10 games off a season might help them stay fresher, longer. He also can spot start in a corner outfield spot. It would not be difficult to find 100 games and 400 PA for Kendrick, making him more than a pure platoon bat.
Kendrick is currently finishing a 2 year contract worth $10 million for each season. The 34-year-old (35 in July) will likely have multiple suitors. For the Mariners to win the services of Kendrick, they likely have two options: 1. Give Kendrick an extra year on his deal. If teams are offering him 2 years, you offer 3. 2. Give him a 1 year deal with a higher AAV than anybody else.
Seattle is in a “must win” season, so spending a little more money for a short-term solution makes sense for 2018. A 2 year deal worth between $9 and $11 million per year seems like a fair compromise between the two parties.
Whether the Mariners choose to go this route, or instead try to find a full-time first baseman, Howie Kendrick is an excellent bat to have around. For a team with a 16 year playoff drought, there should be no such thing as “good enough”, even if it is “just a bench bat”.