Evaluating 2 potential Phillies trade fits: J.D. Martinez, Howie Kendrick

Evaluating 2 potential Phillies trade fits: J.D. Martinez, Howie Kendrick

The Phillies are in a tricky position as the offseason begins, in need of offense but without many open positions to add it.

It would make little sense for them to pursue a high-priced catcher, first baseman, shortstop, third baseman or centerfielder given the presence of Cameron Rupp, Jorge Alfaro, Tommy Joseph, J.P. Crawford, Maikel Franco, Odubel Herrera and Roman Quinn. 

It's entirely possible that when that group matures, it still won't be good enough offensively to push the Phillies deep into October, but for now, this organization wants to give those players a chance to reach their potential.

That would seemingly leave just second base and the corner outfield for a free agent or trade target. Thus, we'll take a look at two notable names that have been connected to the Phils this week:

Tigers OF J.D. Martinez
CSN's Jim Salisbury mentioned Martinez as a trade possibility for the Phillies earlier this week, and the 29-year-old certainly looks like a fit. He's 29, one of the game's better power hitters and his contract expires after 2017.

If the Phils were to trade for him and he disappoints, they wouldn't be locked into a pricey, multi-year contract. If he produces, they could extend him. And at age 29, he wouldn't be too old to contribute to their next competitive club.

Martinez has been terrific for the Tigers the last three seasons so don't expect them to give him away. Since 2014, he's hit .299/.357/.540 and averaged 28 homers, 82 RBIs and 33 doubles in 499 plate appearances per season.

In two of those years he exceeded 20 homers in less than 125 games. In the other, 2015, he played 158 games and hit 38 homers.

There's no doubt about his power, but he's not some one-trick pony who either hits one deep or strikes out. Martinez has maintained a relatively high batting average the last three years, which has enabled him to reach base at a .357 clip.

The Phillies would have to give up something significant to land Martinez. You'd think, given the construction of Detroit's roster, that in exchange for him, the Tigers would want a major league-ready piece to try to win with Miguel Cabrera, Ian Kinsler and Victor Martinez still around.

Could that mean someone like Herrera? Vince Velasquez? Either player would make sense for Detroit, which lacks an everyday centerfielder and has a few underperformers in its rotation.

Salisbury also brought up the idea that the Phillies could take on the big contract of Anibal Sanchez in a Martinez trade. That would give Detroit some payroll space — Sanchez is owed $16 million in 2017 and $16 million more with a $5 million buyout in 2018 — and the salary dump aspect of the deal could help the Phils hold onto their better young talent(s).

That's certainly possible, but you'd think the Tigers would first prioritize turning their 29-year-old power hitter into a player or players of substance. The only way a salary dump involving Sanchez would make sense for Detroit is if it has already identified a mid- or upper-tier free agent it would sign with that pocketed money.

One thing seems clear, though: With so many big contracts already on the books, Martinez is probably not a piece of the Tigers' future. GM Al Avila has already said the organization is not considering extensions this offseason.

Back to the aforementioned trade possibilites, moving a Herrera or a Velasquez for Martinez would make sense for the Phillies only if they believe they can sign Martinez to an extension. The Phils have almost no sizable payroll commitments moving forward and could afford to pay (or overpay) Martinez if they truly believe in him.

Stay tuned there.

Dodgers utilityman Howie Kendrick
Kendrick would be a less expensive, less impactful acquisition, but he'd still be the exact type of player Phillies manager Pete Mackanin is looking for. Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal reported the Phils' interest in Kendrick earlier this week.

The statistical community does not love Kendrick because he doesn't walk a lot and doesn't have a ton of power, but he does everything solidly.

Kendrick, 33, is a .289/.332/.417 hitter in 11 seasons with the Angels and Dodgers. From 2007 through 2015, he hit at least .285 in eight of nine seasons. He's a consistent singles hitter with gap power who can give you double-digit home runs. His 162-game average is 11 homers, but keep in mind he's played his entire career in ballparks not conducive to home runs.

This past season was Kendrick's worst offensively. He hit .255 with just eight homers and 40 RBIs in 543 plate appearances, but did walk a career-high 50 times. Some of that decline could have been a result of his getting older. It also could have been caused by the Dodgers' moving him up and down the lineup and all over the field throughout the year. For the first decade of his career, Kendrick was an everyday second baseman. Last year, he started 54 games in left field, 16 at second base, nine at third base and seven at first base.

That versatility would be welcomed by the Phillies, who could plop Kendrick into the two-hole and start him wherever they're weakest. He could be pencilled in as the opening day leftfielder, but if a Roman Quinn or a Nick Williams produces his way to the bigs, Kendrick could be shifted to second base. It would give Mackanin some of the flexibility and offensive professionalism he needs. 

Kendrick has also always been a clubhouse leader, the type of player others gravitate toward. I'd heard about it for years and noticed it up close in the Dodgers' clubhouse when they came to town in 2016. I'm assuming that at least a quarter of the Phillies' fans reading this will roll their eyes or ignore things like "leadership" and "clubhouse chemistry," but just know that I did too before being in a clubhouse regularly. Having a confident, experienced leader who also brings some on-field skills to the table is huge for a young team.

Now, Kendrick is no long-term answer. If the Phillies were to acquire him, he could be here a year and move on. He's owed $10 million in 2017 before becoming a free agent.

But when you combine that contract status with Kendrick's 2016 production and the Dodgers' roster depth, Kendrick is an obvious trade candidate, one who wouldn't cost the Phillies a difference-making prospect.

2 unique pitching matchups await Phillies at Wrigley Field vs. Cubs

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2 unique pitching matchups await Phillies at Wrigley Field vs. Cubs

As the Phillies begin a seven-game road trip to Chicago and Milwaukee, two interesting pitching matchups await. 

In tonight’s series opener at Wrigley Field, former Cub Jake Arrieta opposes the pitcher his ex-team chose to pay instead of him: Yu Darvish. 

In Game 3 of the series, left-hander Cole Irvin is opposed by left-hander Cole Hamels in Hamels’ first-ever start against his former team. The Phillies are the lone MLB team Hamels has never faced. 

The Arrieta-Darvish comparison has been an interesting one. Neither pitcher has lived up to the price tag so far. 

In 40 starts as a Phillie, Arrieta is 14-15 with a 3.98 ERA and 1.30 WHIP. His ERA has been 7 percent better than the league average over that span. The Phils did not expect they were getting the Cy Young version of Arrieta, but expectations were certainly higher than an ERA barely better than 4.00 for the ninth-highest paid pitcher of all-time in annual salary. 

What Arrieta has given the Phillies that Darvish has not given the Cubs, though, is durability and consistency. Arrieta has allowed three runs or fewer in 23 of those 40 starts as a Phillie, keeping them in the game more often than not. The same cannot be said of Darvish, who has been limited to just 17 starts as a Cub and has a 5.05 ERA with them. 

Darvish missed most of last season because of injuries to his triceps and elbow. He pitched just 40 innings. 

This season, Darvish has struggled mightily to throw strikes. He’s walked 33 batters in 42 innings and completed six innings once in his nine starts. He’s still racking up the strikeouts, though, and is coming off a season-high 11 against the Reds. The previous two games, he walked 11. 

There is a lot of contract left for Darvish, but so far it’s played out like a major mistake for the Cubs, who did almost no spending this past offseason because of the big-money deals already on the books and the dough that will soon need to go to Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and eventually Willson Contreras. 

Between Darvish and Jason Heyward, the Cubs committed a total of $310 million and an average of $44 million per year. Those two contracts are two major examples of why free agents are being paid differently these days.

Last June when the Phillies went to Wrigley Field, Arrieta did not pitch. He didn’t face the Cubs at home, either, so this will be the first matchup since his departure. The best days of Arrieta’s career came in Chicago and he’s still beloved there for the no-hitters, the Cy Young season and World Series ring. And he doesn’t hold any ill will toward the Cubs for making the choice they made last winter. 

"I knew that there was always an opportunity to come back here until I signed with another team," Arrieta said in the visiting dugout at Wrigley last summer. "It was a very chaotic offseason for free agents, not only myself but everybody involved. When Theo (Epstein) did call, it seemed like it could've been a possibility but just the way it all went down, I was leaning more and more to the side of probably not returning to Chicago. 

"Would it have been great if I signed here? Yes. Am I happy with the way things worked out ultimately signing with the Phillies? Absolutely."

Tonight begins an important series of starts for Arrieta, whose next three opponents will be the Cubs, Brewers and Cardinals, three of the best offenses in the National League. Despite the degree of difficulty, these are the kinds of games a contending team hopes to get quality starts from its $75 million man.

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Will we see Scott Kingery start in center field regularly?

Will we see Scott Kingery start in center field regularly?

Sunday was Scott Kingery’s first career start in center field and it came in his first game back. Kingery was sidelined for a month with a hamstring strain that was worse than the ones suffered by Jean Segura and Odubel Herrera. 

Kingery fared well in his return. There were no issues in the field, and at the plate he went 1 for 3 with a walk and a stolen base. The hit was a smooth line drive to left field in his first at-bat. 

With Herrera not providing much at the plate (.234 batting average, .297 OBP), Kingery will continue to see time in center field. It doesn’t make sense right now to sit Cesar Hernandez for him given how hot Hernandez has been for the last month. But Herrera and Maikel Franco are different stories. 

Kingery will not start Monday night in Chicago. The Phillies are monitoring his workload with him fresh off the IL. He will, however, likely start multiple games in the Cubs series. The Phillies face lefties Jose Quintana, Cole Hamels and Jon Lester in consecutive games Tuesday through Thursday. Seems like a logical spot to sit Herrera for Kingery. 

Kingery was hitting .406 when he was sidelined. He started the season looking like a completely different player than last season. 

“The most important thing (while I was out) was trying to keep my timing,” Kingery said after the Phillies’ 7-5 win over the Rockies Sunday. “As soon as I could pick up the bat I was in the cage, working on my swing, fastball machine, doing whatever I could, seeing live arms BP-wise and stood in on a few bullpens just to see some different pitches. That's about all you can do when you're hurt. I feel good now.”

Defensively, Kingery will face some adjustments. Center field is not his natural position nor does he have extensive experience there. But his speed, range and instincts give him a chance to be an above-average defender there. 

“I think the main goal is my arm slot has always been for an infielder,” Kingery said. “So I have to work at getting a little more over the top and get a little more carry on the ball. I'd say that's one of the most important things for me right now.”

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