The Phillies currently have 12 players on their 40-man roster “in flux”. There are four outright free agents, six arbitration eligible players, and a pair of players with options. We will review each of the 12 players starting today, reviewing the case to either re-sign the player, the case to release the player, and the final verdict of what the Phillies should do for the 2015 season.
The champagne sprayed from the Phillies’ World Series win in 2008 dried just under six years ago. The 2014 Phillies, somewhat surprisingly, share a number of players from that club, including seven-year pitching veteran Kyle Kendrick. The Mount Vernon, WA-native won 10 games as a 22-year old during the Phillies’ improbable run to the playoffs in 2007 and won 11 for the 2008 World Champs but only appeared in just one game, a 10-5 shellacking at the hands of the Colorado Rockies in Game 2 of the 2007 NLDS.
Kendrick is often the forgotten or overlooked member of a core of the six Phillies that remain from the 2008 championship club and has been solid for the Phillies in a number of roles than spanned from accidental number two starter to Quad-A long man to pretty good swing man to middle-of-the-road starter. In his time with the Phillies, Kendrick’s 74 wins are, somewhat deceptively, more than R.A. Dickey, Matt Garza, Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy, and Scott Kazmir over the same period and his 1138.2 IP, despite missing a chunk of 2009 due to being demoted, are more than Annibal Sanchez, Hughes, and Homer Bailey.
Kendrick signed a one-year deal with the Phillies last off-season to buy out his third arbitration year making him a free agent for 2015. Would you re-sign Kendrick or let him walk?
The Case For
The main case in keeping Kyle Kendrick is that he is both young and durable. Despite amassing six-plus years of service time in seven seasons with the Phillies, Kendrick turned just 30 in August, making him nine months younger than Cole Hamels. Kendrick is one of 51 pitchers to complete 1100 innings or more since 2007 and has never faced a major injury concern. Kendrick’s durability and flexibility, particularly in 2011 when he routinely morphed from starter to reliever, has made him an asset to the Phillies at or below market value. Kendrick provided the Phillies $2.175 million in surplus value over the course of his first seven years in the Majors per FanGraphs value and contract numbers from Baseball Reference.
The Case Against
While Kendrick has provided surplus value over the life of his contract, Kendrick cost the Phillies $5.575 million last season in contract v. FanGraphs performance value. After taking a giant leap forward in 2012, adding nearly two Ks per 9 IP, and following it up with a similarly solid 2013 where his peripherals stayed the same and FIP and xFIP shrunk again while his ERA increased thanks in part to bad Phillies’ defense, Kendrick took a big step backward in 2014.
Heading into the season, his $7+ million contract was not outrageous and was about the going rate for a starting pitcher in his position. By the end of the year, his FIP had jumped 50 points season to season. Did the drop in performance have anything to do with workload? Kendrick pitched a career-high 199 innings in 2014. But workload probably didn’t have much to do with his struggles: Kendrick had a 2.78 ERA with a .258 BAA in 32.1 September innings, arguably one of his best months of 2014.
Unlike Jerome Williams, Kendrick’s ground ball, fly ball, and line drive percentages stayed close to his career averages so any dip in performance was not likely to be found there. Kendrick’s HR/FB rate did jump back up toward his career average so the absence of home runs in 2013 may explain his solid 2013 as an outlier rather than the perceived jump explaining his less-spectacular 2014.
Cost also may be prohibitive for the Phillies, as well. Baseball Reference lists Gavin Floyd as one of the most comparable players to Kendrick over his career. Floyd, who has very similar numbers to Kendrick but also comes with an incredible injury history, commanded a one-year, $4 million deal last offseason. Another similar pitcher per Baseball Reference, Joe Blanton, who had been as durable as Kendrick to that point in his career, commanded a three-year, $22 million deal with the Phillies and then a one-year, $6.5 million deal with the Angels prior to the 2013 season at age 32. Expect to pay no less than $6 million a year for Kendrick. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Kendrick receive close to $7 or $7.5 million a year annually for more than one year.
This one for me is an easy pass. Kendrick had been, covertly, a value for the Phillies during a run where their payroll increased exponentially year after year. With a strong Arizona Fall League and a strong Spring, Adam Morgan could be ready to make the jump to the Major Leagues while Jonathan Pettibone is a league-minimum option as well that has the same production potential as Kendrick. Additionally, the following starting pitchers are available free agents this offseason and could be either better production wise for the money or cheaper: Scott Baker, Floyd, and Ervin Santana. Note: for further reading, check out the list of available free agents at MLB Trade Rumors.