The Los Angeles Dodgers made an interesting trade on Friday as they traded outfielder/2nd baseman Howie Kendrick to the Philadelphia Phillies for 1st baseman Darin Ruf and center fielder Darnell Sweeney.
It became very clear within the past few days that the Dodgers were going to deal Howie Kendrick soon, so certainly this trade didn’t come as much of a surprise. The Dodgers didn’t have a clear starting position for Kendrick which is why it was probably good to trade him since he was reportedly unhappy with his role. The team will certainly miss his versatility to play many positions, but it is relatively easy to find a bargain utility player especially since Kendrick had a $10 million salary next season. I’m not too excited with the players that the Dodgers received in return for Kendrick though. Darin Ruf is a 30-year old 1st baseman that has been a backup for most of his career in Philadelphia with Ryan Howard starting at 1st base for the Phillies. However, Ruf has great power as he has shown with 35 career home runs in just 286 games played. Ruf hasn’t proven that he can play many positions, so it’s unclear the role that he will have with Los Angeles. Adrian Gonzalez is the everyday 1st baseman for the Dodgers, so Ruf will likely be stuck with a bench role as a pinch-hitter who can provide some power with his bat. I think Ruff could be a useful platoon player since he hits left-handed pitching so well, but with Gonzalez at 1st base it seems less likely. Meanwhile, Darnell Sweeney is a really intriguing part of this deal because it will be interesting to see how he is used by Los Angeles. Sweeney actually used to be a Dodgers prospect, yet he was dealt to the Phillies for Chase Utley. Sweeney spent all of last season in Triple-A, but he plays so many positions that it is unclear to see where he fits in at the MLB level. Sweeney is still young, but he needs to figure out how to hit before he can make an impact at the MLB level as he had a poor .233 average in Triple-A last year. He certainly brings some speed and position versatility, but he likely will spend a lot of time in the minor leagues until he can prove that he is ready to face MLB-level pitching. I don’t necessarily blame the Dodgers for getting rid of Kendrick since they didn’t have a clear role for him. However, I don’t think the return that the Dodgers got will really benefit them much at all.
This is a really good trade for Philadelphia because they are acquiring a veteran bat with a relatively cheap contract and on top of that he can play multiple positions as well. Kendrick hit .255 with 8 home runs last season with Los Angeles and that was certainly a down year offensively for him, but expect at least his batting average to improve in 2017. Kendrick can hit basically anywhere in the lineup, although he will certainly help the Phillies at the top of the lineup. The Phillies had terrible play in left field last season, so Kendrick is an automatic upgrade at the position even though he hasn’t spent much time playing out there in his career. Kendrick has mostly been a 2nd baseman throughout his career and he is a nice backup at that position if the Phillies need it. Kendrick will also bring veteran leadership to a young Phillies team in the process of a major rebuild. He also is only making $10 million in the final year of his contract which means he is a cheap temporary solution for Philadelphia in left field, yet he is certainly worth it. What makes this trade even better for the Phillies is that they are giving up 2 players that they wouldn’t have a role for next season anyway. Darin Ruf has been a backup 1st baseman in Philadelphia for years and with Tommy Joseph being the new everyday 1st baseman then it didn’t make much sense to keep him as a backup. Ruf brought a power bat to the Phillies, yet his lack of position versatility really hurt his value to Philadelphia. Also, Darnell Sweeney probably didn’t have much of a future for the Phillies at the major league level. Sweeney didn’t even reach the MLB level last season as he struggled offensively with only a .233 average and 6 home runs in 118 games at Triple-A Lehigh Valley. The Phillies don’t have the patience to develop his offensive abilities and he certainly wasn’t going to get called up to the MLB team anytime soon. Overall, the Phillies are getting a quality veteran player and the best part is that they didn’t have to give up anything useful to get him.