Kyle Kendrick’s Arbitration Case

Recently at Beyond the Box Score, the omnipresent Dave Gershman wrote a simulation of an arbitration hearing, using Francisco Liriano as an example. It was very informative and enlightening, but with Kyle Kendrick headed to arbitration, I wish to be a fly on the wall in that exchange. Here’s my best guess as to how Kendrick’s arbitration process will go down.

. . .

Kendrick’s agent slides a folded piece of looseleaf paper across the table towards GM Ruben Amaro. Amaro does the same. Both unfold the paper and read the suggestion for Kendrick’s 2011 salary.

Amaro: This is outrageous. I can’t afford to pay Kyle that much. He won’t even start the season in the rotation.

Agent: We think it’s fair compensation for the time and effort Kyle put in during his time in the organization. He’s done whatever the Phillies have asked of him, whether it’s filling in for an injured pitcher, moving to the bullpen, or accepting a demotion down to the Minors. Kyle’s a team guy and he deserves to be recognized for it.

Amaro sits quietly, listening to Kendrick’s agent. Amaro pauses for several seconds after the agent stops talking, reveals a TV remote, and turns the flat-screen TV on. This video clip plays.

Amaro: I can’t pay $3 million for that. Kyle, I recognize and appreciate everything you’ve done for our organization, but your performance doesn’t merit that kind of salary. I was happy to pay you $480,000 last year and I am quite fine with raising your pay, but not to that level. Unless we trade Joe Blanton, you won’t even be in the starting rotation. It just doesn’t work.

Kendrick attempts “sad puppy eyes”. Amaro is unfazed.

Agent: What will you do if and when you trade Blanton? You have no one else to step up and fill in. Everyone knows Blanton will be wearing a different uniform by August 1. What if Kyle decides he doesn’t want to be a team guy anymore because you jilted him in arbitration?

Amaro leans back in his chair, sipping from his styrofoam cup of coffee. He belches.

Amaro: We are fine with letting Vance Worley get a turn in the rotation. His numbers are superior to Kyle’s in every way, you know.

Agent: His numbers are so good that you let him start a whopping two times. How about in 2007 when Kyle was thrown in the rotation and pitched the Phillies into the playoffs?

Amaro: If we had that rotation from 2007 now, where Kendrick was a legit #3, I’d be more open to meeting your demands. But we have R2C2. We could use a 4-man rotation if we wanted to.

Amaro’s Blackberry, resting on the table, vibrates. He checks it, reading his daily Joke of the Day text. A sight smile breaks the scowl Amaro had been wearing for the past 20 minutes.

Kendrick: Listen, I’m not asking for much. I just want to be fairly compensated for my effort like everybody else in the league. What’s the big deal? You spent like a billion dollars on Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee but you can’t give me an extra million or two?

Remember that time you guys pranked me and told me I was traded to Japan? I took that like a champ. I was such a good sport. Now I kind of wish I really had been traded.

Amaro: Actually, we have been talking with some Japanese teams about moving you. They would be willing to pay you what you think you’re worth. We haven’t agreed on anything yet, but we could get something done within the next month or so.

Kendrick: Really?

Amaro: No.

Kendrick: What the fork! Pranking me in an arbitration conference?

Amaro finishes the last of his cinnamon roll. Some icing is left on the corner of his mouth. He lifts up his tie and wipes it off.

Amaro: This is boring and I have places to be. I’ll go $1.5 million for you this year, that’s about as high as we can go. If you two think you can do better, you’re welcome to move on. The fact is, pitchers like Kyle are a dime-a-dozen. You guys should be happy I’m even willing to discuss a pay raise at all. Kyle’s K/9 was the lowest in the Majors last year. His sinker barely sinks and his fastball is flat. That’s not an integral part of the 2011 Phillies.

Amaro lifts up the remote and plays this video clip, then exits the room.

Kendrick and his agent quietly discuss their options. Kendrick takes out his laptop.

Agent: You should take the $1.5 million. You have a good thing going here and you might even win another World Series. And I don’t really think the arbiters will rule in your favor anyway.

Kendrick doesn’t acknowledge what his agent said.

Agent: Hello? Kyle? You listening?

Kendrick emphatically slams the Enter key, then folds up his laptop. A printer turns on.

Agent: What did you just do?

Kendrick walks over to the printer. It is a receipt from an airline website.

Kendrick: I just bought a one-way ticket to Japan. Get on the phone and find me a job over there. Inform my wife.

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25 comments

  1. MplsPhilsFan

    January 18, 2011 01:04 PM

    Bill, Thanks for the laugh. My guess is that Kendrick ends up with closer to $2MM based on his comparables, than to $1.5.

    Just curious, has there been any estimates on how much a win will be worth in 2011? If Kendrick has a WAR of .5 (reasonable expectation based on his career), then he should be paid approximately what he is worth, putting aside the issue of whetehr those funds could best be used in other areas, such as the bench

  2. MplsPhilsFan

    January 18, 2011 03:19 PM

    Kendrick just signed for $2.45 MM. Seems high to me, but not by an absurd amount

  3. Ken

    January 18, 2011 03:25 PM

    I hyad written elsewherev yesterday a prediction that they wouldn’t settle, the Philsm wo0uld defy the arbitrator to overpay Kendrick. Silly prediction without knowing the offer and demand, but if they compromised at 2.45, I’d be inclined to think the Phils offer would have been pretty fair. 2.45 is kinda incredible to me. 1.5 might be relatively low, this day and age being asw it is, but that’s just animpression.

  4. nik

    January 18, 2011 03:52 PM

    Kyle’s first and last payday.

  5. coli

    January 18, 2011 04:22 PM

    Funny!!!!!!!!

  6. Ellen

    January 18, 2011 04:35 PM

    Sorry, he deserved the raise, so 2.45 is what he got and hopefully he will rise up to the occasion when needed.

  7. Rory

    January 18, 2011 05:00 PM

    I think 2.45m is a really nice payday for a MIDDLE FREAKING RELIEVER with some spot start capability. With the inning eating ability of the starting rotation are any relief pitcher going to actually have to earn thier pay other than Madson and Lidge.

  8. hk

    January 18, 2011 07:00 PM

    MplsPhilsFan, the estimate of $5M per WAR is for free agent acquisitions, not cost controlled players. Therefore, if Kendrick only produces 0.5 WAR, $2.45M will be an overpay because teams are supposed to get the better end of the stick on cost controlled players (i.e. $470k for 0.7 WAR from Ben Francisco last year) in order to be able to pay ~$5M per WAR for free agents. This looks like an overpay and I think the Phils would have been better off non-tendering Kendrick.

  9. FanSince09

    January 18, 2011 08:00 PM

    Instead of overpaying Kendrick they should of just used this money to keep Jason Werth!

    Also they knew this was coming so they should of kept JA Happ, since he wasn’t arb eligble, in addition to being the best young lefty in the game!

  10. Scott G

    January 18, 2011 11:01 PM

    Players are what they are. The money doesn’t really help them “rise to the occasion”. Except maybe, you know, immediately after they sign the deal.

    Furthermore, players who are overpaid, should not be criticized for not performing to the level of pay (Pat Burrell). The organization should be to blame, they offered the contract.

  11. css228

    January 18, 2011 11:09 PM

    Saw Ruben at the Flyers tonight, had as much a response to me as I’d expect him to have towards Kendrick and arbitration.

  12. Bill Baer

    January 19, 2011 03:46 AM

    Saw Ruben at the Flyers tonight, had as much a response to me as I’d expect him to have towards Kendrick and arbitration.

    He said, “Screw it” and handed over $2.45 million?

  13. Richard

    January 19, 2011 08:44 AM

    perhaps surprisingly, $2.45 million is about exactly what he is worth, in $/WAR terms, according to Fangraphs’ reckoning, assuming he pitches at the same level as he did last year….

  14. bill

    January 19, 2011 11:09 AM

    JA Happ, the “best young lefty in the game” is a year older than Cole Hamels. So, yeah.

  15. nik

    January 19, 2011 11:19 AM

    A player who produces 1WAR isnt worth 5 million a year. 1WAR is about an average MLB player that your system should be able to churn out without a sweat. Kendrick provided -0.3 WAR according to BR last year. Basically the same job Figueroa or Carpenter would provide at replacement level. He should have been DFA-d and resigned for a 1MM at MOST.

  16. Richard

    January 19, 2011 01:00 PM

    Well, obviously there’s the difference between Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference versions of WAR… in any event, according to Fangraphs, by this market, teams have been valuing 1 WAR at roughly $5 million, so take it up with them.

  17. Nik

    January 19, 2011 02:04 PM

    The 5MM/WAR number is mostly from high-end highty-paid stars. I doubt anyone would voluntarily pay a guy 5MM if they knew he’d only produce 1WAR.

  18. Richard

    January 19, 2011 02:15 PM

    Oh, I realize that. It’s one of the many weird things about the huge amounts of money in baseball. Very rarely is someone paid close to what they’re actually “worth”, in $/WAR terms. Stars are either bargains or overpaid (as they get paid now what they may have been worth when at their best, but were relatively cheap). Lesser players are either overpaid, or only have value because they are cheap, etc.

    Someone like Kendrick, it’s true, really only has value if he’s cheap, even if he “produces” about $4million in value. As those players stay in the league, they inevitably get arb. raises, or have a year above their heads, which give them increases they can never be worth. This year, if Kendrick pitches about as well as he can, he may well have been “worth” $2.45 million, but he will never be worth the money he would likely get with the raise he’d likely get next season.

  19. hk

    January 19, 2011 02:55 PM

    Richard,

    Teams are built on the expectation that they will get much more than $5M per WAR out of their young, cost controlled players in order to enable them to spend $5M per WAR on free agents. Different sites project a team full of replacment level players at between 40 and 48 wins, so let’s take the average and say a replacement level team would have 44 wins. If a team was willing to spend $5M for each WAR, it would cost $250M payroll for a team projected to win 94 games. Therefore, teams have to be able to pay $1M or so per WAR on their cost controlled players and Kendrick is unlikely to be worth 2.45 WAR in 2011. As I mentioned above, the Phillies got 0.7 fWAR from Ben Francisco for $470k last year. Also, FWIW, Cincinnati got 7.4 fWAR from Joey Votto last year for $525k and 5.3 fWAR from Jay Bruce for $440k.

  20. Richard

    January 19, 2011 03:17 PM

    yes, hk, that’s pretty much what I just said, thanks.

  21. hk

    January 19, 2011 07:07 PM

    The real question is what metric did the GM use to determine that (a) Kendrick is worth offering arbitration and (b) worth paying $2.45M? Clearly not advanced metrics like WAR, FIP or xFIP, but even more traditional stats like K/9 and ERA do not justify this contract. Maybe the GM figured he earned the salary with his 11-10 record last year and his lifetime 35-24 mark.

  22. css228

    January 19, 2011 11:20 PM

    @Bill Baer, I wish

  23. Brad

    January 20, 2011 08:27 AM

    $2.45 sounds like a lot for a guy who is going to have to have a monster spring just to make the big league squad. Kyle better pull a Tonya Harding on Joe Blanton in Clearwater unless he wants to be spending 2011 in Lehigh Valley.

  24. Nik

    January 20, 2011 09:18 AM

    Does KK have any trade value at this point?

  25. Bill Baer

    January 20, 2011 02:46 PM

    Not now. Kyle’s most attractive feature prior to a couple days ago was his price. A replacement level pitcher that costs $2.5 million isn’t attractive.

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