What Howie Kendrick's extension means for Brandon Phillips

Over the weekend, the Angels and Howie Kendrick reportedly hammered out a contract extension for four years and $33.5 mil. The deal buys out Kendrick's final arbitration year, as well as three free agent years. If I had to guess, I would assume the payment outlay is something like $5.5/7.5/9/11 plus a buyout on an option year or something like that. I'm sure the details will surface over the next few days. The most important thing though is that the established value of just over $8 mil per year, and around $9.5 mil for his free agent seasons. It's just shy of the four year, $38.5 mil deal Rickie Weeks signed last winter. Regardless of what the actual numbers are, the contract will likely have a serious impact on the ongoing Brandon Phillips contract negotiations.

Kendrick and Phillips are actually fairly similar hitters over their careers. Take a look:

PAs BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wRC+ OPS+
Phillips 4365 6.0 14.3 .272 .322 .434 96 96
Kendrick 2638 4.2 16.9 .292 .329 .434 104 105

A few things that stand out: most obvious is the fact that Phillips has more than 2.5 full seasons' worth of PAs over Kendrick at this point. This is in part due to the fact that Phillips is older (he'll be 31 this season, Kendrick will be 28), but it's worth mentioning that Phillips didn't play his way into the lineup until he was 25, while Kendrick was a starter at 23. But also, they are very different players in terms of durability. Kendrick has struggled over his five seasons to stay on the field, only playing in more than 105 games just twice (his two most recent seasons). Phillips is the picture of consistency though, playing in more than 140 games each of the last six seasons. So while Kendrick may have the advantage in youth, Phillips mitigates that with a much better health history.

The most striking thing to me is their nearly identical slash lines. Their SLG numbers are exactly the same, and Kendrick holds a seven point advantage in OBP. Their park-adjusted stats show just how much home park can affect a hitter. Kendrick gets a boost for playing in pitcher-friendly Anaheim while Phillips gets knocked for GABP. The difference in parks adds up to an eight or nine point difference in their park-adjusted rate stats, depending on which one you prefer. Gnarly, dude.

One stat I purposely left off the above graph is perhaps the most critical in making projections for these guys. As you can see, Kendrick hardly ever walks, so his offensive value is derived almost exclusively from his ability to hit the ball with some pop and use his speed. His career BABIP is an impressive .339. Phillips', on the other hand, walks a bit more (though still not much) and strikes out less. But his BABIP is a league-averageish .292. It seems the Angels took this into account during their contract negotiations, as a guy with Kendrick's offensive profile and injury history is not likely to age all that well. Considering the fact that Phillips is a few years older, even with his clean injury history, I'd rate their Cliff Factor (or their likelihood of steep and rapid decline) as roughly the same, or perhaps a bit in BP's favor.

It would be foolish to overlook their defense. Here's what the numbers say:

UZR DRS TZL FSR
Phillips 55.8 26 -49.1 33
Kendrick 23 21 3.3 -1


One of the most interesting phenomena (to me, anyway) in advance statistics is the fact that Total Zone thinks Brandon Phillips is a Total Bum. Every other data set agrees with the general public, pro scouts, and his peers that he is one of the elite defensive infielders in the game today. As for Kendrick, these are just his numbers at 2B. His versatility is an asset worth mentioning, as he has also played a not-insignificant number of innings at 1B and LF. But the takeaway here is that he is no slouch himself in the field. He doesn't have the Gold Gloves that BP has, but I think it's safe to say he's a plus defensive 2B. Whatever advantage BP has with the glove is probably mitigated by Kendrick's advantage with the bat. In short, these guys are about even.

So now that we've established that these guys are about equally valuable, let's discuss money. The extension that Kendrick signed over the weekend is reported to be for four years and $33.5 mil. That is less than the numbers that have been floating around the BP extension talks, even considering that Kendrick's first year of his extension is his last year of arbitration. I can't remember where I read it (and can't seem to find it), but I recall that Phillips has been asking for something in between the Weeks deal and the Uggla deal. This deal for Kendrick comes in even lower than the Weeks endpoint. Phillips made $11.5 mil last year and will make $12 mil this coming season. One can assume that he's looking for something more along the lines of the ~$12 mil he's been making and what Dan Uggla will make over the life of his extension (five years, $62 mil), considering he's coming off a career year where he started the All-Star Game and won both the Gold Glove and the Silver Slugger. Hell, he could even make the case that he deserves a raise.

It's safe to assume though that the Reds will use this Kendrick contract to try and gain some leverage. The 2B market has evolved over the past year and so any extension should reflect that. If the deal is to be somewhere between Weeks and Uggla, the Reds could use Kendrick to try and push the needle closer to Weeks. I think it's bad news for those who are rooting for a deal to get done. Phillips isn't going to give the Reds what he sees as a homeboy discount, and the Reds will probably be less willing to stretch to meet his demands. All in all, I still think the will to get a deal done is there for both sides, but the economics just got more complicated.

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