With less than a week remaining before the deadline, the buyers and sellers are becoming more clearly defined. It’s been no secret that the Cubs are looking for more pitching depth as the fifth starter pitcher position has seen five pitchers make starts so far already. The Cubs front office has shown a preference for starters with control remaining, but with the team falling out of the second wild card spot and sinking fast, more urgency might now be more necessary. One name that has come up recently of interest is Ian Kennedy of the San Diego Padres as a buy low candidate. Let’s take a look at what it may take to acquire him.
Ian Kennedy has been a very up and down kind of pitcher in his nine-year career. From 2010-11, Kennedy looked to be a rising star in the league thanks to combined numbers of a 30-14 record, 3.55 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and 366 strikeouts in 416 innings. Since then, he’s fallen off a bit of a cliff, with a 41-44 record, 4.22 ERA, 1.32 WHIP and 646 strikeouts in 687 innings. Some have suggested that the dip in effectiveness may have been brought on by either a drop in velocity, shakier command and some struggles with his release point. Whatever the problem is, there are signs of him coming out of it this season.
Kennedy has been a much better pitcher away from PETCO Park, pitching to a 3.80 ERA as opposed to 5.26 ERA at home. Also, since June he has 3.42 ERA in 10 starts and his walk rate for the season is his lowest since 2012. With Chris Bosio able to unlock the talent within pitchers like Jason Hammel and Jake Arrieta, it’s possible that he may be able to do so for Kennedy.
Kazmir, like Kennedy has been somewhat of an enigma in his career, but has been a much more consistent pitcher over the last few years with similar talents. Mengden was a top 20 prospect and has four possible plus pitches. Scouts are mixed on if he is a rotation piece or a reliever and although he has dominated Low-A this year, he struggled upon promotion. Nottingham was also a top 20 prospect, but has ascended into the top 10 in mid-season rankings thanks to strong numbers in High-A with a lot of power. There is some debate though if he can stick behind the plate.
Ian Kennedy has been traded twice in his career but his most recent one from the Arizona Diamondbacks to the Padres for LHP Joe Thatcher, RHP Matt Stites and a competitive balance type B draft pick is of most interest here. At the time of the deal, Kennedy had two years of control remaining. Thatcher, a seven-year veteran had been a very useful left-handed specialist with strikeout stuff and the ability to generate groundballs. Stites was just a top 30 prospect, but posted a 2.08 ERA in 52 innings with a low walk rate at the Double-A level. The draft pick as a type B slotted to be at the end of the second round.
Another similar trade to consider is when the Cleveland Indians traded Justin Masterson to the St. Louis Cardinals at the deadline last year for OF James Ramsey. Masterson, like Kennedy had seen a fair amount of past success as well but struggled mightily in his final season with the Indians. The Cardinals thought they might be able to fix his issues and took a gamble on him. Ramsey was a top seven prospect for the Cardinals with pop and the ability to hit for average and get on base. He has the speed to play center field and the arm to play right.
In all of these deals, a top ten prospect has pretty much been the minimum with the exception of the Kennedy deal, but a late second round pick is pretty equal value. The Cubs have one of the best systems in baseball, so a top 15 prospect at the minimum makes a lot of sense. Players like Albert Almora Jr., Dan Vogelbach or Corey Black who have lost some of their luster, but still have high ceilings could be candidates as could names like Jen-Ho Tseng and Jeimer Candelario.
Quality starting pitching is quite the commodity these days, so prices are high even for rentals like Kennedy who have their issues. Perhaps the Cubs will be able to help him reclaim some former glory, but even if not, his current body of work would be an upgrade over what they’ve gotten out of the fifth spot so far. It all depends in how close to contention, the front office thinks this team really is and what kind of deal they can swing. Ian Kennedy does make a lot of sense, but only at the right price as overpaying for him could be more harmful than helpful in the long run.
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Player Acquisition Cost Reports:
- INF/OF Ben Zobrist
- RHP Jonathan Papelbon
- RHP Tyler Clippard
- LHP Cole Hamels
- LHP Oliver Perez
- RHP Sonny Gray
- LHP Steven Matz
- RHP Tom Koehler
- OF Gerardo Parra
- RHP Dan Haren
- OF Will Venable
- RHP Tyson Ross
- RHP James Shields