Phillies Stay or Go: Kyle Kendrick

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Phillies Stay or Go: Kyle Kendrick

Over the next two weeks, we'll take a look at Phillies on the bubble -- players who may or not may not return in 2015 because of their contract situation or a desire by the team to move on.

Kyle Kendrick, starting pitcher

Age: 30

Contract: Kendrick will enter free agency for the first time.

2014 season
Kendrick won 10 games, marking the sixth season he has won double digits. In Phillies’ history, only Grover Cleveland Alexander, Steve Carlton, Curt Simmons and Cole Hamels have won at least 10 games in six different seasons.

But before a game of “which of these names doesn’t belong” begins, Kendrick’s second straight 10-13 record with a career-high 199 innings and 121 strikeouts wasn’t as good as it looked. That is, if a losing season with a 4.61 ERA can look good at all.

In 32 starts, Kendrick gave up 33 runs and 51 hits in the first inning — nearly twice as many as he allowed in the next highest inning. Hitters batted .357 and hit eight homers in the first inning off Kendrick, but hit just .258 with 17 homers in all of the other innings combined.

Kendrick was 42nd of 43 pitchers who qualified for the ERA title in the National League and 83rd out of 88 pitchers in the majors. Hitters batted .276 off Kendrick, which was 82nd of the 88 qualified pitchers.

Amazingly, Kendrick led the Phillies with 10 wins. He ended the season with a 2.78 ERA in September allowing just one run in three of his final five starts. And he's been durable, turning in 87 starts over the last three seasons.

Signature game of 2014
Kendrick saved his best effort for last. In his season finale on Sept. 24 in Miami, Kendrick held the Marlins to one run on six hits and no walks over seven innings. He also went 3 for 3 with a double and an RBI in the 2-1 win.

Kendrick started off September with a three-hitter over seven innings in a win against the Braves and reached seven innings while allowing two runs or fewer in six starts.

Stay or go?
Kendrick came up from Double A Reading as an emergency starter in June of 2007 and aside from a few stretches here and there, has been with the Phillies ever since. Indeed, Kendrick has a knack for survival and perseverance and certainly is a contributor to a major-league roster.

But it seems likely that Kendrick’s career will benefit from a change of scenery. Moreover, the Phillies need to test some unproven starting pitchers like Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez and that will be easier to do with Kendrick out of the way.

There are plenty of teams in the big leagues that will need a No. 4 or 5 starter like Kendrick.

What they’re saying …
“After I was done in the seventh inning, I kind of soaked it in a little bit. I looked around. I’ve been with these guys a while, especially Jimmy [Rollins], Cole [Hamels], Chase [Utley], Ryan [Howard] Chooch [Ruiz]. It was a little emotional, I’m not going to lie. Change is never easy. If it happens, I’ll deal with it.”
- Kyle Kendrick, Sept. 25, 2014

“Going forward we’re going to need starting pitching next season. I wouldn’t totally eliminate [Kendrick] from the picture. He’s shown improvement the second half. He’s shown what he can do when he keeps the ball down and commands his pitches.”
- Ryne Sandberg, Sept. 25, 2014

Trade front quiet, but Phillies could lose a player or 2 in Rule 5 draft

Trade front quiet, but Phillies could lose a player or 2 in Rule 5 draft

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The Phillies have a history of adding players in the Rule 5 draft. The annual event, designed to prevent teams from stockpiling minor-league talent without giving it a shot in the majors, has netted the Phillies players such as Dave Hollins, Shane Victorino and Odubel Herrera over the years.

The year’s Rule 5 draft will be held Thursday morning at the conclusion of the winter meetings, but it’s highly unlikely that the Phillies will be active. After adding 11 prospects to their 40-man roster two weeks ago, the Phillies are simply out of room. Selecting a player in the Rule 5 draft would first require the Phils to cut a player loose and that did not seem to be the plan as the sun set Wednesday.

While an addition is unlikely, there’s a strong possibility that the Phils will lose a player or two in the draft. Outfielder Andrew Pullin, a 2012 draft pick, is the likeliest to go. He hit .322 with a .885 OPS between Single A and Double A in 2016 and a number of teams are buzzing about him. A late-season elbow injury prevented Pullin from playing in the Arizona Fall League and factored into the Phillies’ decision to leave him unprotected.

If a team rolls the dice on Pullin, it must keep him in the majors all season or offer him back to the Phillies.

Other players who could go include first baseman/outfielder Brock Stassi, outfielder Carlos Tocci and pitchers Miguel Nunez and Hoby Milner.

All quiet for now
Phillies general manager Matt Klentak spent Wednesday meeting with agents and representatives from other clubs.

“Nothing is hot at the moment,” he said late in the day.

Klentak has brought back starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson, added relievers Joaquin Benoit and Pat Neshek and traded for outfielder Howie Kendrick this offseason. The biggest remaining issue/question on his plate is whether to add a veteran hitter in a corner outfield spot or keep the pathway open for young players such as Roman Quinn and eventually Dylan Cozens and Nick Williams. 

“Successfully balancing the present and the future is the single greatest challenge that a baseball operations department faces,” Klentak said. “We’ve talked about it all offseason. The decisions that we are making right now about giving playing time to a young player that has cut his teeth in Triple A and needs that opportunity to take the next step as opposed to a shorter-term solution from the outside — that’s one of the main challenges that we’ve run into this offseason.”

While it’s uncertain whether the Phils will add a hitter, they most surely will make other roster tweaks as the winter moves on. They are likely to fill their backup catcher’s spot in-house (see story), but could add a utility infielder and more bullpen depth on minor-league contracts.

“I think there will probably be another move or two before we get to Clearwater,” Klentak said. “Who and when remains to be seen.”

Phillies likely to carry rookie backup catcher in 2017

Phillies likely to carry rookie backup catcher in 2017

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The likelihood of the Phillies going with a rookie backup catcher in 2017 increased dramatically when the Miami Marlins signed free agent A.J. Ellis on Wednesday.

Ellis spent the final month of the 2016 season with the Phillies after coming over from the Dodgers in the Carlos Ruiz trade. Ellis, 35, got high marks for his work with the Phillies’ young pitching staff and the Phils had some interest in bringing him back. The interest, however, was complicated by a tight 40-man roster, which already includes three catchers — starter Cameron Rupp and minor-league prospects Jorge Alfaro and Andrew Knapp.

With Ellis out of the picture, the Phillies will likely use either Alfaro or Knapp as the backup catcher in 2017. Knapp spent a full year at Triple A in 2016 and could end up being the guy as Alfaro moves to Triple A for another year of seasoning.

General manager Matt Klentak spoke earlier this week of the possibility of going with a rookie at backup catcher.

“Andrew Knapp just finished his age 25 season in Triple A,” Klentak said. “He has a full year of at-bats in Triple A. At some point for both he and Alfaro, we’re going to have to find out what those guys can do at the big-league level. During the 2017 season, we’ll have to find out — not just about those two guys — but others.”

It’s not all that surprising that Ellis ended up with the Marlins on a one-year deal worth $2.5 million. He played for Marlins manager Don Mattingly during the latter’s time as manager of the Dodgers.