Trading For A Starter: Ian Kennedy


Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

This ought to go over well. Lets start off by saying that this winter, -like seemingly every other winter-, the Dodgers are looking to fill a hole at the back end of the rotation. The offseason is also going over like everybody predicted it would have. No Hanley extension, no Russell Martin splurging, no 4 year deal to Andrew Miller. And going forward, I wouldn’t expect any large impact signing that limits the team’s flexibility going forward. Point is, I don’t think the Dodgers want to spend a whole lot of money this offseason, and their behavior in the early stages certainly backs that idea up.

So Ian Kennedy? Hunter of heads, ruiner of fun, paradox of grit? Yes! Ian Kennedy! He’s the type of player the Dodgers need to be targeting. Just run down the current rotation and you can see the worries.

Clayton Kershaw? The MVP and unquestionable leader of the team, but also has thrown 1378.1 innings since 2008. Zack Greinke? He has spent his entire Dodger career alternating between ace caliber brilliance, and chronic elbow pain (that and serial assaulter Carlos Quentin), but with Greinke having reported issues with his elbow in each of the past two seasons, there’s at least some worry there. Hyun-Jin Ryu? I don’t need to tell you how scary shoulder injuries are, and he’s had issues with that twice in each of the last two seasons. Dan Haren? Well 34 year old pitchers who can’t miss bats, are prone to the home run ball, and saw their velocity decline from the upper 80’s in 2013 to the mid 80’s in 2014 aren’t exactly great bets to be reliable pitchers next season. And after that, it’s… uh… Carlos Frias? Zach Lee? Chris Reed? None of which should start the season in the rotation next season without widespread injuries.

So it’s a really talented, top heavy rotation that would be best served by acquiring a solid starting pitcher that pushes Dan Haren to the #5 spot in the rotation.

Enter Ian Kennedy, the bane of the 2013 Dodgers, not including Carlos Quentin of course. But yes, Kennedy was the player who basically set off the flames in the Diamondbacks-Dodgers rivalry, every Dodger fan has a pretty low opinion of him, but he should start the season in the #4 spot in the Dodgers rotation.

The Padres are in an awkward situation, they have some talent there in Jedd Gyorko, Yasmani Grandal, Yonder Alonso, Seth Smith, Ian Kennedy, Tyson Ross, Andrew Cashner, and a collection of cost controlled assets. But Gyorko, Grandal, and Alonso are all coming off of down years while Grandal might be traded, Seth Smith just signed an extension, Tyson Ross and Cashner are really good, but one’s injury prone and the other one has only put together a season and a half of above average starting pitching numbers.

So it’s pretty easy to see why the Padres aren’t eager to shell out 10 million dollars to a good, but not overly great pitcher about to enter his last year of arbitration.

And Kennedy is pretty good. While the 2011 season where he finished just behind Clayton Kershaw in the Cy Young race is looking more and more like an outlier in terms of his career production, he owns a 99 ERA+, which rates as an inconsequential 1% below average. This past season he compiled a 9.3 K/9 along with a 3.1 BB/9 and limited his home runs to a tune of 0.7 HR/9. Though that might have a lot to do with Petco park. It’s pretty reasonable to be skeptical about Kennedy’s success this past season, a very good looking 3.21 FIP loses it’s lust when you realize Kennedy has been worse than his fielding independent pitching suggests in 2 out of the last 3 seasons. Not to mention that his ERA+ last year was 8% below average, which is what a 3.63 ERA in Petco gets you, but throwing 200 innings is something that’s underrated in today’s world.

I touched on this in the Mark Buehrle post awhile ago, 200 mediocre type innings for the 2015 Dodgers would be so much better than say 150 above average innings. The Dodgers need some sort of stability at the back end of the rotations, because that’s where they struggled so mightily last season. Not only were they forced to give Kevin Correia more than just a September pity start, Correia pitched meaningful innings in August, and was absolute garbage in them. This isn’t even mentioning the fact that the Dodgers gave up two live prospects (decently heralded prospects at that) for Roberto Hernandez. Subsequently the general manager at the time joked around saying the players to be named later were somehow on the low end of a potential deal involving the one of the worst starting pitchers in the entire game.

So with the Blue Jays probably wanting to keep Buehrle after signing Russell Martin (they presumably want to contend, and Buehrle is good), the Dodgers are going to have to find a reliable starter to give them 32 starts next season. And Kennedy is as good a bet to do that as anyone, in the past 4 seasons, he’s averaged 32 starts, and averaged 201 innings per season. Kennedy is durable and average, and that’s something the Dodgers could really benefit from.

Obviously the top 3 prospects should be off limits. I’d could live with a Zach Lee for Ian Kennedy swap, I just don’t think the front office could. Other than that, any middle tier prospect should be on the table in any potential deal.

It’s interesting to note that Logan White, former Dodger boss of the minor league system is in charge of the Padres farm system, so the front office might be wary of trading with somebody who knows the system so well.

Regardless, does Scott Schebler and Chris Reed seem fair for a season of Ian Kennedy?

I don’t know about the clubhouse “problems”, I personally don’t care about his past, he provides something that no option in the free agent market provides: Almost guaranteed to give you 32 starts and will only be under team control for a single season. That should be good enough for the Dodgers.