Phillies Mailbag: Kendrick, Hellickson, Next Move?
Once again it is time for the weekly Phillies mailbag. Submit your questions anytime on the Sports Talk Philly Facebook page or on Twitter at @FrankKlose.
What do the Phillies want with Howie Kendrick? Doesn't this block younger players?
The Phillies took second baseman Howie Kendrick off the hands of the Los Angeles Dodgers in a trade that sent first baseman Darin Ruf and minor league utility player Darnell Sweeney. While it is true that the Phillies will continue to showcase young talent in the 2017 season, Kendrick fills a need. While Kendrick is a veteran who will likely not be with the Phillies beyond 2017 (if not even sooner), Kendrick has value to this Phillies team.
First, the Phillies wanted to add a veteran bat to their young lineup. With Ryan Howard moving on, the Phillies are left with their youngest regular player being shortstop Freddy Galvis, who himself may find himself being replaced by prospect J.P. Crawford sooner than later. Tommy Joseph was a promising force in 2016, but his offensive output remains somewhat unpredictable.
Kendrick had the first down year of his career in 2016, batting .251. Prior to last season, Kendrick had never batted less than .279 and he maintains a career. 289 batting average. With the young bats on the club having fluctuated during 2016, Kendrick will be the steady offensive force.
As to whether or not Kendrick will block anyone, Kendrick's versatility made him an attractive bat for the Phillies to acquire. Kendrick spent 2016 around the diamond at third base, second base, left field, and first base.
While Kendrick is currently pegged to be the Phillies' left fielder, Kendrick could move to second base should the Phillies made a trade involving Cesar Hernandez. Since the Phillies have prospects Jesmuel Valentin and Scott Kingery in the pipeline, the Phillies are in a position where they can trade Hernandez if the right deal comes along and move Kendrick to second base for the season.
The Phillies outfield likely has the young Aaron Altherr in right and Odubel Herrera in center field. The only one who really stands to lose from this is Cody Asche. It seems like the Phillies do not have Asche in their plans anymore. Should he stay, the Phillies are likely to use him in a utility role. I think that Roman Quinn is going to begin the year at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, and should he break the big club, the Phillies can also move on from Kendrick if need be.
Kendrick would be a good candidate for a July trade, and there is potential the Phillies can do better in return that what they have given up.
How could the Phillies waste all that money on Jeremy Hellickson?
When the Phillies tendered the $17.2 million qualifying offer to starter Jeremy Hellickson, they certainly were aware that he may take it. While early reports seemed to indicate that Hellickson was leaning towards rejecting that option, Hellickson and his agent Scott Boras got feedback from teams that the draft pick attached to Hellickson made him less attractive to sign. Hellickson took the offer, and helps the Phillies fill an important need.
The Phillies needed someone to be who Hellickson was last year: a veteran starter who stabilized a young rotation and gave the team 189 innings. The Phillies have enough young starters in number: Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez, Jake Thompson, Zach Eflin, and Adam Morgan. Ben Lively and Nick Pivetta are inching closer to the big leagues, too. But as we saw last season, injuries can pile up quickly and inexperience means that games are shorter from the rotation.
With the need filled, the question about money may be a fair one. Some picked Hellickson to get an average annual value of $13-14 million a season if he signed a multi-year deal. But Hellickson instead will get $17.2 million, which could be around $4 million more for the single season. There is good news on two fronts: 1) The Phillies have the money and 2) They are freed up after this season.
Since the Phillies want to play their young players, they are not spending money on free agents. Howie Kendrick will be the most expensive position player they have on the roster in 2017 at around $10 million. The aforementioned young starters will not make much more than the Major League minimum. In short: they can afford to overpay Hellickson in 2017 because it is not keeping them from acquiring anything else.
The second benefit is that the deal is only a one-year deal. The Phillies will be free to acquire a higher-profile free agent next year. Because Hellickson's deal expires at year's end, Hellickson could be a more-attractive July 31 trade deadline candidate. If people wish to criticize the Phillies for not trading Hellickson at last year's deadline: they'll have another shot. At year's end, they can always extend another offer, or, walk away.
What is the next move the Phillies make?
I would have thought that the Phillies should have added a left-handed bat with some power, but the move acquiring Kendrick seems to eliminate any roster space the Phillies could spare. That could change, however, with a trade of second baseman Hernandez, which I think is now the next move the Phillies will make. If Kendrick can cover second base pro-tem, the Phillies could add a left-handed bat.
Hernandez had a very strong 2016, particularly in the second half. Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly wrote that the we should "keep an eye on the Angels" for a Hernandez trade. The Angels are almost at the luxury tax threshold and in desperate need of a second baseman. Hernandez's salary is low and he is a stable piece for their lineup.
Other than that, the Phillies have added a starter, added a veteran bullpen piece, and added a lineup piece. I think if nothing changes in regards to Hernandez, the Phillies will sign a number of minor league free agents that they hope can become tradable commodities in July. The heavy lifting may be done already.