Should the Phillies Keep Kyle Kendrick Around in 2014?
Kyle Kendrick got knocked around by the Cubs yesterday, the third consecutive start in which he has allowed four or more runs — the sixth such occurrence in his last seven starts. His ERA is up to 4.51, reminiscent of the Kendrick we saw in 2008 and 2010, not in the second half of last season and the first two months of this season.
Kendrick is eligible for his fourth and final year of arbitration after the season, as he will have completed his two-year, $7.5 million contract extension signed in February 2012. Despite the lackluster performance this season, Kendrick would still be in line for a slight raise on 2013’s $4.5 million salary, somewhere in the neighborhood of $5-6 million. The obvious question then must be asked: should the Phillies keep Kendrick around in 2014?
The Phillies will have the option of tendering John Lannan a contract — assuming he is healthy — which would cost around $3 million. They will also have Jonathan Pettibone to go along with aces Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee. Other options include bringing Roy Halladay back on a one-year, incentive-laden contract, giving Adam Morgan a spot if he performs well as a spring training invitee, shopping around for a free agent pitcher, and outright giving a spot to the recently-officially-signed Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez.
In the position the Phillies are in, having mostly interchangeable parts behind their two lefty aces, depth is paramount. The rigors of a 162-game season have called on nine different pitchers to start at least once for the Phillies this season. A better example, though, would be the Los Angeles Dodgers. They went into the season with three too many pitchers, prompting rumors of hurried trades made just before the start of the season involving Ted Lilly and Chris Capuano. It turns out that they needed every single one of their pitchers and then some.
Kendrick has been worth 1.1 Wins Above Replacement this season, his lowest since 2010, according to Baseball Reference. On the free agent market, 1.1 WAR would cost slightly more than $5 million, which also just happens to be what Kendrick will likely make in arbitration. So not only would he be paid essentially what he is worth, but he would provide the Phillies rotation depth at the bare minimum. As Kendrick has shown as recently as May, he can be an above-average starter as well.
As presently constructed, and being realistic about the types of moves they can and will likely make after the next few months, the Phillies don’t portend to be anything more than a .500 team. Keeping Kendrick around at a relatively cheap price would allow the Phillies to use him as a trade chip before the July 31 deadline. Non-tendering him would net the Phillies nothing and they would just reinvest that $5-6 million elsewhere, whereas paying him to avoid arbitration might return a useful prospect or two to a contending team next summer.
Furthermore, having Kendrick around gives the Phillies the luxury of progressing Adam Morgan (and Jesse Biddle, for that matter) at the pace they would prefer. Consider that the Phillies likely had no intention of using Pettibone and Ethan Martin as heavily as they have this year.
The only reason one would want to actively push Kendrick out of the picture is if the Phillies were harboring a rotation full of aces the way they were in 2011, but that will not be the case. Kendrick would not be taking innings away from anybody else and his salary won’t prohibit GM Ruben Amaro from making other transactions. Kendrick has certainly been frustrating to watch lately, but that is no reason to kick him to the curb when he still provides value to the team.