Ian Kennedy, potential Texas Rangers offseason acquisition: One of the people we've been talking about for quite some time as a potential trade target for the Rangers this offseason is righthanded starting pitcher Ian Kennedy.
Kennedy is an innings-eating starter with some upside who has had a couple of mediocre-to-bad seasons in 2013-14. He would be a fit for Texas because he would require a one year commitment -- he's arbitration-eligible for 2015, then a free agent -- and would likely not be too expensive, either in salary (he's probably looking at $8-10 million for 2015) or in prospects. He would give the Rangers a reliable veteran to slot behind Yu Darvish and Derek Holland in the rotation, someone who can log innings while providing you with at least the hope that he can return to being the guy who put up 10 bWAR from 2010-12. And he's someone you would figure that the Padres would be looking to deal, given that they are coming off a 77 win season and figure to be in rebuilding mode.
And making this seemingly the perfect fit is that the new Padres g.m. is A.J. Preller, former lieutenant for Jon Daniels. So not only do Daniels and Preller presumably have a good relationship which would help facilitate trade talks, but Preller is responsible for bringing a lot of the young talent in the Rangers farm system to Texas. That heightened familiarity that Preller has with the Rangers prospects would seem to give the Rangers an edge in trade talks, as Preller would have the opportunity to get some of "his guys" in the deal, versus players he's not as familiar with.
We've been hearing about Kennedy seemingly forever, it seems...he was a first round pick of the Yankees in the 2006 draft, going at #21 overall, 9 picks after the Rangers took Kasey Kiker. Interestingly, in terms of bWAR, he's the best player taken after Kiker in the 2006 first or supplemental first rounds -- he has a 10.9 bWAR, and none of the other 31 players taken in the 1st/supp 1st rounds have double digits. The next-highest bWAR in that group? Joba Chamberlain, also a Yankee draft pick. The only other players from pick #12 through pick #44 to have at least 4 bWAR are Chris Perez, Daniel Bard and Adam Ottavino.
Just a year after Kennedy was drafted, his name was coming up in trade discussions with the Rangers, as Texas supposedly had identified Kennedy as someone they wanted in a deal for Mark Teixeira that summer, had the Yankees decided to make a run for him, or for Eric Gagne, who New York was reportedly in more serious negotiations with before opting not to part with Kennedy, clearing the way for Gagne to be sent to Boston.
Kennedy never ended up getting a serious look in New York, pitching 59.2 IP over the 2007-09 seasons before getting sent to the Diamondbacks in December, 2009, in a three way deal that had Curtis Granderson going to the Yankees, Kennedy and Edwin Jackson going to Arizona, and Max Scherzer, Daniel Schlereth, Austin Jackson and Phil Coke going to Detroit.
I'd say that deal was a home run for Detroit, by the way.
Kennedy had three solid seasons in Arizona from 2010-12, going 2.9-4.8-2.3 in bWAR and 2.4-4.9-2.9 in fWAR before falling apart in 2013, and getting dumped on the Padres. Kennedy had a 3.63 ERA and a 3.21 FIP in 201 IP for San Diego in 2014, and was either very good (if you're an adherent of fWAR -- 2.9 last year) or was mediocre (if you believe in bWAR -- 1.4 last year).
Kennedy is a fly-ball pitcher who throws his fastball over 60% of the time during his career. According to the pitch f/x data, Kennedy's velocity was actually up last season on both his two-seam and his four-seam fastballs, with his four-seamer averaging 91.8 mph (compared to 90.2 for his career) and his two-seamer coming in at 91.3 mph (compared to a career mark of 90.0). He also throws a changeup, a curveball, and either a slider or a cutter, depending on which classification you prefer.
I really struggle with Kennedy, both on trying to figure out what you'd project him to do next season, and what he's worth giving up to acquire. Guys who can throw 200 innings are always going to be in demand, and so I'm sure the Padres will have no shortage of suitors inquiring after him. But his upside seems to be a 2-3 win pitcher who will get paid close to $10 million. How much do you really want to part with to acquire that? If you're talking about giving up a couple or three guys who are in the 15-30 range in the organizational rankings, an Odubel Herrera and a Ronald Guzman and a Will Lamb, then sure, that makes sense. But you have to figure the cost is going to be more than that.
At one point I was saying to Kennedy to Texas seemed like an inevitability, it just made too much sense. But now, I'm starting to think that its not so much a match...the Rangers don't seem to be in a position where they want to part with prospects for a short-term rental, and I'm starting to believe other teams are going to be more willing to give up quality to get Kennedy. And even if there's not much market there, San Diego could simply hold onto Kennedy and wait until July, when a team is in the race and is desperate for an arm, and potentially more willing to overpay.
So its a name to keep in mind, a name that we'll probably hear Texas connected to. But I'm finding myself less convinced Ian Kennedy is someone who will end up pitching for Texas in 2015.