Let's double back on a question that I've asked periodically throughout the season. If you were the general manager of the Phillies, would you be willing to pay Kyle Kendrick $10 million to pitch for you next season? Of course, it's a trick question, because paying pro baseball players is not a simple matter of deciding how much you think he is worth. The real question is whether you think you can get a more viable replacement for $10 million or less. And last year's free agent market casts some serious doubt on that.
First, let's back up a second.
I used the $10 million figure mostly as an attention grabber. I can justify it because there is a chance that Kendrick asks for something north of there in his final go-around in arbitration this offseason.
Compare the career numbers of the following two pitchers:
Pitcher A: 47-65, 1020.1 IP, 4.19 ERA, 105 ERA+, 5.5 K/9, 2.7 BB/9, 1.2 HR/9
Pitcher B: 64-53, 923.1 IP, 4.32 ERA, 95 ERA+, 4.7 K/9, 2.5 BB/9, 1.1 HR/9
Pitcher B is Kendrick. Pitcher A is Jeremy Guthrie, who asked for $10.25 million in arbitration two years ago when he had five-plus years of service. The Orioles only offered him $7.25 million and instead of settling decided to ship him to Colorado, which ended up paying him $8.2 million.
So while Kendrick probably won't end up making $10 million next year, his agent can certainly make a case that he should file somewhere around that mark.
Ultimately, Kendrick should command somewhere between the $6.75 million that Jason Hammel settled for this offseason with career numbers of 42-51, 850 innings, 4.78 ERA, 95 ERA+, 6.6 K/9, 3.1 BB/9, 1.0 HR/9 and the $8.2 million that Guthrie landed. Call it $7.5 million.
Now, $7.5 million might sound like a lot to pay for Kendrick, who profiles as a No. 4 or No. 5 starter on a strong playoff contender. But the Phillies only have two starting pitchers under contract, and they don't have a clear-cut internal candidate to fill one of the three remaining spots let alone three. Jonathan Pettibone is currently shut down with a shoulder injury and is probably better off starting next season as organizational depth. Ethan Martin is a bullpen piece at this point. Adam Morgan is a candidate, but the Phillies are still easing him back into a full workload after a shoulder injury of his own. Jesse Biddle does not have consistent enough command of his fastball to warrant an accelerated promotion to the majors. Unless I'm missing somebody, all three vacancies in the Opening Day rotation will have to be filled via free agency or arbitration.
The reason you wouldn't give Kendrick $7.5 million is because you think you can get better value for those dollars in free agency. So let's look at what $7.5 million bought you last year.
Jeremy Guthrie, 34, $8.33 million AAV (three-year deal)
Previous season: 4.76 ERA, 92 ERA+, 181.2 innings
Current season: 4.19 ERA, 97 ERA+, 171.2 innings
Brandon McCarthy, 30, $7.75 million AAV (two-year deal)
Previous season: 3.24 ERA, 120 ERA+, 111.0 innings
Current season: 5.03 ERA, 75 ERA+, 93.0 innings
Joe Blanton, 32, $7.5 million AAV (two-year deal)
Previous season: 4.71 ERA, 84 ERA+, 191.0 innings
Current season: 6.12 ERA, 62 ERA+, 129.1 innings
Brett Myers, 33, $7.0 million (one-year deal)
Previous season: 3.31 ERA, 128 ERA+, 65.1 innings
Current season: 8.02 ERA, 48 ERA+, 21.1 innings
So, there you have it. Now, the Phillies don't have to limit themselves to spending Kendrick's $7.5 million on a pitcher worth $7.5 million. They could roll that money to help pay for an upgrade. But remember, they still need two more starters after Kendrick's slot. As we saw this season, you can never have too much starting pitching depth under your control. Kendrick's durability and consistency (relative to the pitchers in his dollar range) might actually make him a bargain at that price.