Phillies may regret letting Josh Harrison join Nationals

Josh Harrison #5 of the Washington Nationals (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
Josh Harrison #5 of the Washington Nationals (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images) /

Former Phillies infielders Howie Kendrick and Josh Harrison are thriving as Nationals

On November 11, 2016, the Philadelphia Phillies acquired 11-year veteran Howie Kendrick — a longtime former Los Angeles Dodgers and Los Angeles Angels infielder — in exchange for Darin Ruf and Darnell Sweeney.

The 2011 All-Star went on to play just 39 games in red pinstripes, but he shined in the limited game action he fielded — slugging .340/.397/.454 with 11 extra-base hits, 16 runs scored, and 16 RBI spanning 156 plate appearances. In the field, Kendrick played left field, second base, and first base.

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Then, on July 28, 2017, the Phillies dealt Kendrick to their division rival Washington Nationals for minor-league southpaw pitcher McKenzie Mills and international bonus slot money. Kendrick has played in the nation’s capital ever since, including slugging .280/.308/.400 with six singles and a clutch home run for last year’s World Series champions.

The Phillies’ return on investment for dealing Kendrick is essentially zero, as Mills is no longer even in the organization. Fast-forward to 2020, and the Phillies may have made another mistake — letting fellow veteran infielder Josh Harrison go following summer camp to a team no other than the same division-rival Nationals.

Tuesday evening, former Phillies infielders Kendrick and Harrison both started for the Nationals, at first base and left field respectively, while facing the New York Mets at home. Through the first five innings, both have homered in the contest, with Kendrick going 3-for-3 so far with two runs scored and one RBI, and Harrison going 1-for-2 with one run scored and two RBI.

Kendrick’s home run came in the bottom of the first, and Harrison’s the next inning later, which gave the Nationals a respective 1-0 and 2-0 lead. In the bottom of the third, Harrison put the Nationals on top 4-0 with a sacrifice fly RBI to left.

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The jury is still out on whether the Phillies letting Harrison go this season was a mistake, although his performance on Tuesday clearly would have been beneficial for a team who has started the 2020 season with one win and three losses.

As for Kendrick, the verdict has already been made — the .293 career hitter entering Tuesday would have been among the best players on the team in recent seasons, especially in the latter half of 2017 under Pete Mackanin and during the managerial tenure of Gabe Kapler.

Time will tell if Harrison makes the Phillies pay first-hand this season for letting him go; the Phillies opted to keep Neil Walker and Phil Gosselin on the 30-man Opening Day roster in the role he would have filled in the majors.

The Phillies and Nationals are currently slated to meet in 2020 for the first time in regular season action on August 25-27 at Nationals Park.