July 28, 2017

MLB Trade Deadline: Howie Kendrick to Washington ... Hellickson joining him on way out?

There appeared to be a pretty strong possibility that the Phillies pre-trade deadline deal-making was complete after they sent their most attractive trade chip, All-Star reliever Pat Neshek, to the Colorado Rockies on Wednesday night.

The non-waiver deadline for Major League teams to make trades arrives at 4 p.m. on Monday. The Phillies took the field on Friday night with just 69 hours remaining on the trade clock and, on the surface, didn’t appear to have many more attractive pieces to move.

But then, a half hour before game time, Jeremy Hellickson was scratched from his scheduled start. And then, a half hour after the game, manager Pete Mackanin arrived later than usual for his postgame press conference.

Putting two and two together, it sure felt like the Phils had a Hellickson deal near prior to the game and finalized it afterward. Instead, they traded another soon-to-be free agent veteran.

The Phillies sent Howie Kendrick and cash considerations to the Washington Nationals for left-handed pitching prospect McKenzie Mills. Additionally, the Phils received international amateur signing bonus pool space from Washington.

Mills, a 21-year-old former 18th round pick, has been enjoying a breakout season at Low-A Hagerstown. Mills is 12-2 with a 3.01 ERA, 0.946 WHIP, and 118 strikeouts and 22 walks in 104 2/3 innings over 18 starts.

“(Mills) really had a remarkable transformation this year, he struggled with command early in his career and this year he’s been dominant in the South Atlantic League,” general manager Matt Klentak said. “As I mentioned the other day with the (Neshek) trade, we’re adding another solid starting pitching prospect to the lower levels of our system and we’re really excited about that. And on top of that, and this is really important to us, adding international slot money and putting more resources in the hands of (international scouting director) Sal Agostinelli and his staff, it’s something that we think is really valuable for this franchise. Sal and his group do an excellent job of finding talent, and the more resources we can send their way, the better.”

Mills was rated as the Nationals 18th best prospect by MLB.com. Here is mlbpipeline.com's scouting report on the 6-foot-4 left-hander in their scouting report:

 "Mills features a deceptive delivery and quick arm that generates a lively fastball in the low 90s that he's still learning to command. Scouts anticipate more velocity moving forward and they also like how he attacks hitters up in the zone. Mills' above-average curveball is his go-to secondary offering, and the Nationals have been pleased with the development of his changeup, projecting as a third average-or-better pitch for the lefty."

Kendrick, who spent two stints on the disabled list in his four-month stay with the Phillies, hit .340 with eight doubles, two home runs, and one triple in 39 games. 

"I’ve known (Washington manager) Dusty Baker for quite a while now and I’ve always been an admirer of his," Kendrick said. "It’s great, because you always get an opportunity when you are going into a race or being traded to a team in first place already. You have a good chance to make the postseason and that’s what you live for. Our ultimate goal as players is to win a World Series. I couldn’t think of a better place to be going to."

Kendrick's biggest contribution as a Phillie, however, was arguably the first of those two aforementioned injuries, an oblique strain in mid-April that led to Aaron Altherr becoming a regular lineup fixture.

Altherr hit his 15th and 16th home runs of the season in Friday night’s 10-3 win over the Atlanta Braves. Altherr is slashing .294/.365/.566 in 81 games this season.

Just as with the injury, the Kendrick deal moves a veteran out of the way and lets the Phillies roll out an outfield of young players they need to continue to evaluate in the season’s final two months: Altherr, Odubel Herrera, and rookie Nick Williams.

“We have young players who are going to be with us for the foreseeable future and we want those players to continue their major league development,” Klentak said. “On the other hand we love Howie Kendrick and he was hitting .340 for us, he was helping us win games. ... He’s paved the way for others and allowed others to grow and now they can take the torch from him, so to speak, and get more regular reps is a good thing.”

The Phillies may not be done dealing – not just before the deadline, but before the end of the night. Several reports indicate a Hellickson-to-Baltimore Orioles trade is imminent.

Follow Ryan on Twitter: @ryanlawrence21

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