THE PHILLIES' pursuit of upgrading their pitching staff will take a somewhat interesting turn shortly after the holiday weekend.
Monday is the major league deadline for teams to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players. The Phillies have five such players: Kyle Kendrick, Antonio Bastardo, Ben Revere, John Mayberry Jr. and Kevin Frandsen.
Kyle Kendrick, the longest-tenured member of the staff other than Cole Hamels, will be the highest-paid player among that quintet. He earned $4.5 million in the second year of a 2-year, $7.5 million deal in 2013 and stands to earn $6 million to $7 million in 2014.
Philadelphia-area economist Matt Swartz, who projects salary arbitration figures for mlbtraderumors.com, has Kendrick earmarked to get $6.6 million through arbitration in 2014.
But there is little intrigue to Monday's decision, at least according to Ruben Amaro Jr. The general manager will tender a contract to Kendrick, who can become a free agent after the 2014 season.
"I don't know why people are asking about that," Amaro said on the penultimate day of the 2013 season. "We will [tender him]."
The Phils likely will bring the righthander back in 2014 simply because of the lack of depth on the 40-man roster. But Kendrick is coming off a season that was a typical Kendrick performance, pleasing to both his supporters and detractors alike.
In the first 10 weeks of the 2013 season, Kendrick was arguably the most consistent starter in a rotation teeming with superior talent. Kendrick was 6-4 with a 3.22 earned run average in his first 13 starts; he held opponents to a .247 average and .675 OPS.
But Kendrick's final baker's dozen of starts were downright dreadful. He went 3-8 with a 6.49 ERA in the season's final 3 months; opponents hit .331 with a .859 OPS.
On the season as a whole, Kendrick was 10-13 with a 4.70 ERA in 30 starts. In the 70 starts Kendrick has made in the last three seasons, he has a 4.09 ERA with 262 strikeouts and 103 walks in 410 2/3 innings.
As some of the aforementioned numbers indicate, Kendrick lacks consistency and dependability. But he doesn't lack for durability and versatility, avoiding the disabled list for six seasons as a big-leaguer until last September, while also holding down the role of pitching-staff swingman for the 2011 and 2012 seasons.
Kendrick, who turned 29 in August, has value on a major league roster. Whether it's worth paying in the neighborhood north of $6 million is debatable, unless you examine the current market for major league starters.
Take lefthander Jason Vargas, who is 18 months older than Kendrick and who entered this offseason as a first-time free agent.
Vargas' last three seasons with the Mariners and Angels: 33-32 with a 4.04 ERA, 1.28 WHIP and 2.38 strikeout-to-walk rate. Kendrick in the same time period: 29-31, 4.05 ERA, 1.30 WHIP and 2.26 K-BB rate.
Vargas signed a 4-year, $32 million deal with the Kansas City Royals last week.
Vargas' numbers are slightly better and they've come against mostly American League competition, but the two pitchers are comparable.
Ricky Nolasco is also somewhat comparable. Although he is coming off his best season in 5 years, Nolasco, who turns 31 in December, is 35-36 with a 4.29 ERA, 1.32 WHIP and 3.20 strikeout-to-walk rate in the last three seasons with the Marlins and Dodgers.
Nolasco and the Minnesota Twins reportedly came to an agreement on a 4-year, $49 million deal on Wednesday.
Given the dearth of available pitching - and his youth and durability - Kendrick is likely in line for his own generous, multiyear contract this time next year if his 2014 numbers stay in line with those of his last three seasons.
In a market where Vargas already struck it rich, where Nolasco struck it even richer, and where several teams checked in on 37-year-old Randy Wolf, who hasn't pitched since 2012, Kendrick at one year and less than $7 million doesn't look terrible.
He also doesn't look terrible to teams looking for pitching for those same reasons.
A team in need of middle-to-bottom of the rotation help could have interest in Kendrick, since he would be a low-risk addition. Since he's a year away from free agency, Kendrick would represent a 1-year flier, a gamble for a cost-conscious team not excited about giving a multiyear deal to the Nolascos and Vargases of the free-agent world.
The Phillies have signed a catcher and an outfielder but still have plenty of needs. Perhaps Kendrick could fetch you two younger players under club control that could help fill out the 2014 roster.
But since one of the Phillies' needs is starting pitching, it would seem unlikely that the team would tender Kendrick and then trade him.
The Phils' 40-man roster has only six players who project to be starting pitchers. One of those six was a rookie last year (Jonathan Pettibone), another is a rookie this year (Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez), and a third is a minor leaguer only recently added to the roster (Rob Rasmussen).