Philadelphia Phillies and Dodgers Swing a Change of Scenery Deal

The Philadelphia Phillies and Los Angeles Dodgers completed a trade today, with the Phils obtaining a former American League All-Star in the deal.

The Philadelphia Phillies today have traded away longtime disappointing 1B/LF Darin Ruf to the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for one-time AL All-Star Howie Kendrick.

In addition, the Phils will be shipping Darnell Sweeney back to Los Angeles. Sweeney had been obtained by Philly in August of 2015 along with prospect pitcher John Richy in the deal that sent iconic second baseman Chase Utley out west.

Ruf has been a major disappointment with the Phillies, never able to produce enough against right-handing pitching or perform adequately enough on defense to earn a regular role. The now 30-year-old Nebraska native was selected by the Phils with their 20th round choice in the 2009 MLB Amateur Draft.

Ruf burst onto the prospect scene in 2011 by banging 43 doubles and 17 home runs with a strong .308/.388/.506 slash line with the High A Clearwater Threshers.

The power took another step forward at always hitter-friendly AA Reading the following season. In that 2012 campaign, Ruf bashed 38 homers to go along with 32 doubles, 104 RBI, and a .317/.408/620 slash.

With the big league club struggling to the end of their first non-postseason finish in six years, Ruf received his first promotion in September of 2012. Homering in his fourth big league game, Ruf hit for a .333/.351/.727 slash line with three home runs and 10 RBI over 37 plate appearances in a dozen September games.

But it was all downhill from there. At this point in his career, Ruf has a .245/.323/.445 slash with 32 homers and 87 RBI over 744 career plate appearances.

Some among the Phillies fan base still to this day claim that he was never given a fair, full opportunity. The fact is, he never earned it.

The righty-swinging Ruf’s career split against right-handed pitching reveals a horrendous .206/.274/.369 slash line with 18 homers in 515 plate appearances over which he has struck out 152 times.

Sweeney hit just .176/.286/.353 with three homers and 11 RBI in 98 big league plate appearances during the 2015 season following the trade.

He was never able to crack the big league roster this season. Sweeney hit just .233/.299/.345 with six homers and a dozen steals in 447 plate appearances at AAA Lehigh Valley.

Kendrick had by far his best years in L.A., but with the Angels rather than the Dodgers. In his 2011 AL All-Star campaign he hit .285 with 18 homers, 63 RBI, 86 runs scored, and 14 stolen bases.

In 2014, Kendrick received AL MVP votes during his final season with the Halos. That year he hit .293 with 75 RBI, 85 runs scored, 33 doubles, and 14 steals.

Kendrick signed a $29.5 million, three-year contract with the Dodgers as a free agent following that 2014 campaign, but has largely been a disappointment.

After spending the vast majority of his career as a second baseman, the Dodgers converted him to mostly left field this year. He appeared in 94 games in LF, 32 at second base, 17 at third base, and 11 at first base in addition to serving once as a DH.

In 2016, Kendrick hit for just a .255/.326/.366 slash with eight homers, 40 RBI, 65 runs scored, and 10 steals in 487 at-bats over 146 games.

There is no way that the now 33-year-old Kendrick (he’ll turn 34 in the middle of the 2017 season) can be considered a part of the rebuilding Phillies’ future plans. What the club sees in this deal beyond a one-year change of scenery move is questionable.

“There may not be a more professional hitter than Howie Kendrick,” GM Matt Klentak said per Ryan Lawrence at The Philly Voice. “He’s the definition of a professional hitter. He’s been steady his entire career. He’s one of the hardest working guys in the league and he can hit anywhere in the lineup and be productive. … I think Howie is going to have a legitimate impact on our young group.”

That young group of outfielders includes incumbent starters in center fielder Odubel Herrera and right fielder Aaron Altherr.

The Phillies also have young Roman Quinn, who broke into the big leagues in September, and outfield prospect Nick Williams. The former has a good shot to open the season with the Phils, while the latter is likely ticketed for some finishing work at the AAA level.

Kendrick may indeed be a “professional hitter”, but the “productive” part, well, I simply do not see. This seems for all the world to me like a move that will turn out to be a big nothing in the end for either ball club.

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