Kyle Kendrick and Plan B

Back in December, when the Phillies were still deciding on their future with right-hander Kyle Kendrick, I suggested that they cut their ties with the veteran swingman. Pitchers like Kendrick, I argued, are plentiful in the world of baseball, so paying upwards of $3 million per season to keep him around just wasn’t worth it. The Phillies initially avoided arbitration, agreeing to a $3.585 million salary for 2011, but in February, they announced they had signed Kendrick to a two-year, $7.5 million deal.

We have gone over Kendrick’s abilities ad nauseam here, so I won’t waste your time going over those. For passers-by, here some some relevant links:

  • Phillies Must Make Tough Choice Regarding Kyle Kendrick [Link]
  • Phillies Sign Kyle Kendrick for $3.585 Million [Link]
  • Kyle Kendrick Receives 2 year, $7.5 Million Extension [Link]
  • Kitschy Kyle Kendrick [Link]

As a result of Cliff Lee‘s placement on the disabled list recently, Kendrick moved into the starting rotation, making his first start of the 2012 season last night against the Arizona Diamondbacks. He was absolutely terrible over three innings of work, allowing 11 hits, including a home run to Justin Upton and four doubles, and a total of seven runs. In true KK fashion, he walked one and struck out one out of 21 total batters faced.

Kendrick is certainly not nearly as bad as he looked last night, but in Triple-A Lehigh Valley, there are four pitchers who reasonably could have been called upon to make a spot start or two in Lee’s absence: journeymen Dave Bush and Scott Elarton, left-hander Pat Misch, and right-hander Austin Hyatt (who, unlike Kendrick, is getting Triple-A experience before Major League experience). Their existence and placement in the Phillies’ system is entirely independent of Kendrick’s, so the Phillies would have had just as much of a contingency plan if they had non-tendered Kendrick as opposed to the route they chose.

Kendrick is not, in any respect, noticeably better than any of those four options. What Kendrick has is lore: he was the Phillies’ unsung hero in the 2007 season. As Matt Swartz pointed out on Twitter, the Phillies have been paying for that fluky performance ever since:

twitter.com/Matt_Swa/status/194606700010020864

Kendrick also gets too much credit for his versatility — his ability and willingness to bounce between the bullpen and starting rotation at a moment’s notice. While that is nice, it has no practical benefit. The Phillies still had to make a roster move (recalling Joe Savery) in response, so while it appears that Kendrick eats two roster spots for the price of one, he is just a mediocre pitcher who really doesn’t fit anywhere but in a Triple-A rotation as an innings-eater.

It just as easily could have been Bush or Hyatt getting taken for seven runs in three innings last night, but they wouldn’t have been on the books for $7.5 million over two years while doing so. Kendrick’s performance last night was just a painful reminder of the superfluous way GM Ruben Amaro has doled out money since taking over for Pat Gillick after the 2008 season. From needlessly signing Ryan Howard to a five-year contract extension in 2010, giving bench bat Laynce Nix, reliever Danys Baez, and catcher Brian Schneider two guaranteed years, and awarding closer Jonathan Papelbon the largest contract ever for a relief pitcher, the Phillies have been terribly inefficient and backwards-thinking. When you run a payroll in excess of $170 million, money can cover up a lot of mistakes, but it won’t be the case as this roster continues to age and key pieces — such as Cole Hamels and Shane Victorino — have the potential to change their addresses.

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20 comments

  1. Dan K.

    April 24, 2012 09:00 AM

    Unrelated question: at what point does it become a legitimate possibility that Vance Worley was just misrepresented (or undersold, whatever), and what he’s shown is what he is. When does it become likely that his ability to generate called strike threes is actually a skill and not just luck?

    Just curious.

  2. Bill Baer

    April 24, 2012 09:05 AM

    Matt Swartz studied that at Baseball Prospectus:

    www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=12050

    However, the most important information to take away from this article is that even more objective statistics like swinging-strike rate, swing rate, and contact rate, as well as called versus swinging strikeout rates are all of very little added value beyond knowing what the pitchers strikeout rate will tell you.

    Of course, strikeout rate for pitchers is one of the quickest to stabilize among all baseball statistics, and so the added value of information beyond knowing historical strikeout rate is least likely to be significant for strikeout rate as compared with any other statistic.

  3. bill

    April 24, 2012 09:14 AM

    I think people have been saying for a while Worley is not Kendrick, or even in that realm. He’s shown he can strike people out, now he just has to lower his walk rate a bit to show he can be a good pitcher.

  4. The Howling Fantods

    April 24, 2012 09:29 AM

    I fear for the state of this team in just a few years. Amaro’s tenure has been a complete disaster. Other than the first Cliff Lee trade, signing him again last year, and Rollins’ low-balled contract, he has not made any good personnel decisions. He bid against himself in both the Halladay and Pence trades, as the Phillies were essentially the only team in the running for both, and Toronto and Houston were essentially forced to trade them or get nothing.

  5. Dan K.

    April 24, 2012 10:08 AM

    Wait, wait, wait… I can’t tell if you’re trolling. Your opinion was somewhat valid, but then you said no one else was in the running for either Halladay or Pence.

    Even if I give you Pence, you think no one else wanted the best pitcher in baseball? The consensus was that if he wasn’t traded, the Yankees would sign him. So a trade was the only way anyone else could get him. I’ll give you that what we gave for him was steep, but an overpay? Absolutely not. I miss Travis (not so much the other guys), but even he is not worth 3+ years of Halladay at below market value.

    For Pence, the price was steep, sure, but there were definitely other suitors. Also, what about the Oswalt trade?

  6. Dan K.

    April 24, 2012 10:10 AM

    @bill,

    I was never insinuating he was like KK, it was an unrelated note. I was just curious if we can start to say that maybe he actually is a low 3 ERA pitcher, and he isn’t just getting a bit lucky so far. Worley will always be better than KK.

    Also, I’d say he’s already a good pitcher, even without lowering his BB. Lowering his BB would make him even better, though.

  7. LTG

    April 24, 2012 10:24 AM

    Also, neither Toronto nor Houston had their backs against the wall yet.

  8. EricL

    April 24, 2012 10:50 AM

    I hate being right about things this team does that I hate. The signing and then re-signing of Kendrick this winter was one of those things.

    Re. the Pence trade, what’s worse that the fact that he bid against himself and gave WAY too much for Pence is that the Phillies didn’t even need him. They were amongst the league leaders in offense from May 23rd (Utley’s return) through the day of the trade and were in first place by 5 games at the time. It’s not like they had a glaring weakness or needed to make a push for the playoffs. They essentially had their ticket already punched, and pissing away 3 of your top 10 prospects for a guy you don’t need is beyond moronic. (Also, the fact that they replaced Brown and not Ibanez with Pence once he got here was also stupid)

  9. Phillie697

    April 24, 2012 11:17 AM

    @The Howling Fantods,

    You fear NOW the state of the team in a few years? My fear started the moment we gave Howard that $125M contract.

    @bill,

    No offense, but I think Worley has already shown enough to qualify as a good pitcher RIGHT NOW. I had my doubts last year, but that K rate just kept on going up and up and up…

  10. Jake

    April 24, 2012 11:22 AM

    Eric L. I strongly agree with you. I never understood the need for the Pence trade. They were going to get into the playoffs no matter what they did last year. Getting a right handed bat for last year should have been done a cheaper price.

    At this point with Pence injured, we going to see Brown? The teams floundering…might as well let the young guys play and see what they can do with consistent major league at-bats. What’s the worse that can happen? They make errors (Calling Ty Wigginton and Lance Nix to the courtsey phone)? Strike out? Not score runs? Put Mayberry at First, Brown in the outfield and let ‘em play.

  11. The Howling Fantods

    April 24, 2012 11:27 AM

    @Dan K

    Halladay had a no trade clause, and said he would veto any trade after the off season had ended. If Toronto had not traded him, they would have gotten nothing for him after he walked to a contender the next year other than a couple of draft picks. Halladay said he would veto any trade that wasn’t to a contender. The Phillies were the only team actively negotiating with Toronto. Since Toronto was essentially forced to trade him, and since Philly was the only serious suitor, Amaro should have been able to negotiate a below-market trade for him. Instead he gave away a ‘fair’ trade when he should have been able to completely rip him off.

    And his below market contract doesn’t matter, since that was independent of the trade (ie trading prospects had not impact on the subsequent contract signed). A better trade for the Phillies would not have precluded signing him to that contract, as that had no impact on Toronto.

    There were no other Pence suitors by the trade deadline. That was documented in numerous places, even before the trade was made. Not to mention the fact that the Braves got Bourn for essentially garbage compared to what the Phillies gave up, and he was arguably a better player to begin with than Pence.

    I’d say the Oswalt trade was fair value, mostly because of the prospects. Amaro did sell high on Happ, but was once again ripped off via prospects, so it’s a wash to me.

    Of course, don’t forget the Cliff Lee trade, where Amaro only offered him to the Mariners and didn’t even try to create a market for his services. I’m higher on Aumont and Gilles than most of the general public, but he could have gotten much more, especially considering what the Marines flipped him for mid-season.

  12. pedro3131

    April 24, 2012 11:57 AM

    KK looked terrible last night. The dbacks, who have been having offensive issues of their own just pounded everything he threw at him. Herndon pitched pretty well, and the offense came alive a bit at the end their, even if it was against Paterson (multiple kk by Lima time and that’s essentially what the dbacks have in Paterson right now).

    I’m hopeful the offense will hit well of Collmenter tonight. He’s one of those funky delivery guys that once hitters saw him their 2nd and 3rd time through, they started hitting him hard.

  13. Jhole

    April 24, 2012 12:52 PM

    @ Howling

    Who of the prospects the Phillies gave up in the Halladay or Pence trade do you think would be contributing on THIS team right now? You can’t say the under market value of Halladay’s extension that was negotiated AS A PART of the trade is independent of the trade itself. It just isn’t. As much as Travis looks like a rising catching star, he isn’t pushing out Ruiz anytime soon. The window for this group is closing rapidly, and the addition of Halladay was a necessity.

    As far as Pence is concerned, I agree with the point made that I can’t believe that it pushed Brown out instead of Ibanez. That was an error. However, once again, which prospects were going to help the Phillies THIS year or even in the near future? Take a look at how Trevor May and the rest of the group are doing. There is just as much risk associated with Singleton, Cosart and Zeid.

    Amaro has made some blunders which are well documented here. (Nix, Baez and KK to multi year deals that were unecessary for starters) I just don’t agree that he made mistakes in the deals for Pence and Halladay.

  14. The Howling Fantods

    April 24, 2012 02:31 PM

    Just because those prospects wouldn’t be contributing yet doesn’t mean it was worthwhile just throwing them away. If we still had them, we would be able to potentially trade some away this year. Not only that, since they are closer to the majors, they are even more valuable now then they were when we essentially sold low on them. Not to mention the fact that the ‘window’ of ours woudn’t be closing if the farm was still flush with prospects.

    And of course the contract is irrelevant to what we gave up in the trade. The contract negotation was between the Phillies and Halladay. Of course we would have been less likely to trade without guaranteeing a below market contract, but that has nothing to do with Toronto. Throwing more prospects at them has nothing to do with what Halladay would be willing or unwilling to accept.

  15. pedro3131

    April 24, 2012 07:15 PM

    In what world is acquiring the best pitcher of his generation for a few unknown quantities considered selling low?

  16. HBP

    April 24, 2012 09:00 PM

    @Jake
    I completely agree. Get the young guys at bats. It’s so frustrating to watch Wigginton and Nix get at bats knowing we have young guys who could use those at bats to develop thier mlb skills.

  17. Phillie697

    April 24, 2012 09:02 PM

    @pedro3131,

    When you can obtain said pitcher with even less unknown quantities. Hey, a buck is a buck, even if it doesn’t buy you much these days. I rather pay 2 bucks to buy a $3 item anyday.

  18. Dan K.

    April 24, 2012 11:48 PM

    I think it is absolutely ridiculous to say that the Halladay trade was even remotely a bad one. Yes, we paid a lot. But guess what? It was well worth it. There was no reason then, and less reason now, to think we overpaid for Halladay in that trade. Who in their right mind really thinks we were the only suitors for Halladay? Every team in baseball wants Halladay. EVERY TEAM. His no-trade clause meant that he was probably only going to a competitor, but even that stipulation leaves about half of the teams in baseball.

    We were the only suitor? Absolutely ridiculous.

  19. AG

    April 25, 2012 08:12 AM

    The only reported non-Phillies offer for Halladay was Jesus Montero straight up from the Yankees. That’s not a lot of offers but one other offer is all that was needed to establish a floor and give Toronto some leverage in dealing with Philadelphia. At the time, the Phillies only had one A prospect comparable to Montero and that was Dom Brown. Time will tell if the prospects Toronto landed will outperform Brown but given what was known at the time, the Phillies had to be pretty happy that packaging three B prospects allowed them to land Halladay without sacrificing their top prospect.

    As a Toronto fan and outside observer, I feel like the Halladay trade is just about the last thing Philadephia fans should be complaining about.

  20. KH

    April 25, 2012 11:57 AM

    Sorry, but the Halladay trade is not something to complain about. As for KK anybody that respects advanced statistics knows he stinks and has known he stinks for awhile now. He can’t miss bats and he gets no more ground balls then your average pitcher does despite being a so called ground ball pitcher. Its time for the luck dragon to get some long awaited revenge on our man KK its been a long time coming.

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