Scouting The Trade Market: Padres’ Pitchers

Morosi: Yankees not included in Cole Hamels' no-trade list
Yankees place Beltran on 7-day concussion DL, recall Solarte

The Yankees lost ace Masahiro Tanaka for at least two weeks yesterday thanks to what is being called elbow inflammation. He still has to be looked at by team doctor Dr. Ahmad before a final diagnosis is made. Either way, the team was dealt a serious pitching blow that exposes just how little pitching depth they have at the moment, even after acquiring the adequate Brandon McCarthy.

Both the Diamondbacks and Cubs have already started selling off players in advance of the trade deadline. It’s only a matter of time before more non-contenders follow suit, including the truly awful Padres. They come into today with baseball’s eighth worst record (40-51) and are on pace to have the lowest team on-base percentage (.276!) since the 1910 White Sox (.275). You think the Yankees’ offense is frustrating? Imagine watching that night after night.

Anyway, the Padres are in a weird place right now because they don’t have a GM. Josh Byrnes was fired two weeks ago and they’ve been relying on front office staffer and  former Mets GM Omar Minaya to make personnel decisions (along with some others) for the time being. Will he be allowed to make trades in advance of the deadline, or do they want to wait for the new GM to make those moves? Either way, they have some players who could interest the somehow still in contention Yankees. Here are the pitchers. We’ll look at the position players in the coming days.

IPK. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty)
IPK. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty)

RHP Ian Kennedy
Kennedy, now 29, is having his best season since his surprise 21-win campaign for the Diamondbacks back in 2011. He has a 3.71 ERA (2.93 FIP) in 19 starts and 116.1 innings thanks to career-best strikeout (9.67 K/9 and 26.0 K%) and ground ball (41.9%) rates. Kennedy has never really walked anyone (2.32 BB/9 and 6.2 BB%) and spacious Petco Park has helped him keep the ball in the park (0.77 HR/9 and 8.5 HR/FB%) more than ever before.

Between that 2011 season and this year, IPK had a 4.43 ERA (4.30 FIP) in 389.2 innings from 2012-13, so he’s sandwiched two very strong seasons around two very mediocre ones. Kennedy is what he is — a mid-rotation workhorse (180+ innings every year from 2010-13) who can be homer prone (career 1.06 HR/9 and 8.5 HR/FB%) because of his fly ball heavy style (38.1%). Fly balls aren’t a bad thing, mind you, they are high percentage outs, but they do go over the fence from time to time. Here is the PitchFX breakdown of Kennedy’s arsenal:

Four-Seam Sinker Cutter Curveball Changeup
Avg. Velocity 92.7 93.0 85.6 78.5 84.1
% Thrown 59.4% 1.1% 6.8% 17.9% 14.5%
Whiff+ 131 137 144 76 122
GB+ 87 40 95 136 90

Kennedy does not have a single pitch that rates as above-average at getting both swings and misses and ground balls. (Whiff+ and GB+ are like ERA+, only for the individual pitch’s swing and miss and ground ball rates, respectively.) He’s basically a three-pitch pitcher who mixes in some show-me cutters and sinkers per start, which is fine because he has a breaking ball for same-side hitters and a changeup for opposite handers.

Kennedy is owed about $3M through the end of the season and he will remain under team control as an arbitration-eligible player next year as well, so he wouldn’t be just a rental. The Padres did an excellent job buying low on the right-hander last year — he cost them a big league lefty specialist (Joe Thatcher) and Double-A bullpen prospect (Mike Stites), that’s it — and I doubt he will come that cheap this summer. With Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel now in Oakland, Kennedy might be the second best realistically available pitcher at the deadline behind David Price.

Other pitchers who were dealt a year and a half prior to free agency in recent years include Edwin Jackson (D’Backs to White Sox) and Dan Haren (D’Backs to Angels). Jackson cost Chicago two good but not great pitching prospects (David Holmberg and Daniel Hudson) while Haren fetched a four-player package that included big leaguer Joe Saunders and two top pitching prospects (Tyler Skaggs and Patrick Corbin). Kennedy is much more Jackson than Haren to me. Not even close. Remember, 2010 Haren was pretty awesome.

It’s worth noting that, obviously, the Yankees know Kennedy well from his time in the organization. He’s had a reputation for being a bit of a jerk and a hot head, most notably throwing at Zack Greinke’s head during a game last season. That sparked a benches clearing brawl. (Kennedy led the baseball with 14 hit batsmen in 2012.) The Yankees value makeup and high-character players and all that. I wonder if it’ll be a dealbreaker if and when Kennedy becomes available based on what they know.

That's Ross. I dig the blue jerseys. (Andy Lyons/Getty)
That’s Ross. I dig the blue jerseys. (Andy Lyons/Getty)

RHP Tyson Ross
The Athletics are the best team in baseball and GM Billy Beane built that team by trading all of his young players, including Ross. The 27-year-old righty cost the Padres nothing but two Quad-A guys (Andy Parrino and Andrew Warner) two winters ago, and last season he gave the club 125 innings of 3.17 ERA (3.20 FIP) ball.

Ross has pitched to a 2.93 ERA (3.37 FIP) in 122.2 innings so far this year to earn a well-deserved spot in the All-Star Game. His strikeout (8.58 K/9 and 23.1 K%), walk (3.08 BB/9 and 8.3 BB%), and ground ball (58.1%) rates are almost identical to last season. It’s kinda freaky (23.6 K%, 8.7 BB%, 54.9 GB%). The only significant difference is the long ball — Ross has allowed 0.73 HR/9 (12.8 HR/FB%) this year after managing a 0.58 HR/9 (8.2 HR/FB%) in 2013. Here is the pitch breakdown:

Four-Seam Sinker Slider Changeup
Avg. Velocity 94.4 93.4 86.9 86.7
% Thrown 22.6% 34.7% 37.6% 5.0%
Whiff+ 89 104 157 89
GB+ 110 141 120 126

The changeup is basically a show-me pitch. Ross uses the sinker to get grounders and the slider to get swings and misses. As you might expect given the general lack of a changeup, lefties (.319 wOBA) have hit him harder than righties (.297 wOBA) over the years. Not many pure fastball/slider guys succeed as starters, but Ross is making it work. (Bud Norris, Garrett Richards, and Chris Archer are some others with a fastball/slider/no changeup repertoire.)

The Padres deserve a lot of credit for stealing Ross from Oakland. He will earn $1.98M total this season, his first of four arbitration years as a Super Two. That means he will remain under team control for another three years and not qualify for free agency until after the 2017 season. Ross would be furthest thing from a rental and that means the price will be rather high. Doug Fister was traded from the Mariners to the Tigers at a similar point in his career, and, as I detailed in our Scouting The Trade Market: D’Backs Pitchers post, Detroit gave up two top prospects and two pieces off their MLB roster to get him. Acquiring Ross would help both the 2014 Yankees as well as the 2015-17 Yankees.

Street. (Denis Poroy/Getty)
Street. (Denis Poroy/Getty)

RHP Joaquin Benoit & RHP Huston Street
Very quietly, San Diego has one of the most dominant setup man/closer tandems in baseball. Benoit has a 1.91 ERA (2.42 FIP) with a 30.9% strikeout rate and a 5.0% walk rate in 37.2 innings this season while Street has a 1.13 ERA (2.93 FIP) in 32 innings. He has a 28.0% strikeout rate and a 5.9% walk rate. They aren’t quite Dellin Betances and David Robertson, but they’re not far off either.

Bob Nightengale says the Padres have let teams know Benoit is available, and I assume Street would be as well. The last thing a bad team needs is a high-priced closer with an injury history on the wrong side of 30. Benoit is under contract for next season ($8M) with a club option for 2016 ($8M) while Street has an 2015 club option worth $7M. The Yankees could certainly use another shutdown reliever (what team couldn’t?) and both guys would give them some protection for next season in case Robertson bolts as a free agent.

* * *

Righty Andrew Cashner would also make sense as a trade target because he is both really good (2.86 ERA and 3.19 FIP from 2013-14) and under team control as an arbitration-eligible player through next year, but he is currently on the disabled list with a shoulder injury. It’s his second shoulder-related DL stint of the season and he has a lengthy injury history too. It seems like every pitcher to come out of TCU has arm problems. TCU is the new Rice.

Anyway, I’m not sure the Padres would be willing to deal Cashner right now for anything less than a knockout return, otherwise they’d be trading away their most valuable asset for less than full value. They’re better off holding onto him, letting him finish the year healthy, then shopping him either over the winter or at next year’s trade deadline. Kennedy figures to be very much available though, ditto Benoit and Street, but Ross is someone a team would have to pay a handsome price to acquire. The Padres have little reason to move him.

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Morosi: Yankees not included in Cole Hamels' no-trade list
Yankees place Beltran on 7-day concussion DL, recall Solarte
  • Kosmo

    I really would like the Yanks to land Headley/Ross. Headley has found his stroke and Ross is a very good pitcher. The only problem with Ross is he´s helped by the park he pitches in, 2.00 ERA at home, 4.00 on the road the last 2 years.

  • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

    Well we flipped Nuno for McCarthy, why not Shane Greene for Ross?

    In fact, if Cashman can’t get headley AND ross for just francisco cervelli, I have no idea what he’s getting paid for.

  • Rob

    Got to disagree on Daniel Hudson was considered one of the top pitching prospects in baseball at the time of the trade.

  • Kosmo

    A package of DBJ, Flores, Camarena, Ramirez + 1 for Headley/Ross ???

    • no

      Cool and I’ll trade you all the junk in my dumpster for a new BMW because hey, it’s a lot of junk.

      • Kosmo

        add Clarkin and Murphy subtract Camarena and Flores.

      • Kosmo

        headley and ross are not exactly BMWs more like Hondas.

        • Jorge Steinbrenner

          Don’t you start messing with Hondas now, flapjack.

      • Jorge Steinbrenner

        I shouldn’t have laughed, but I did.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      Too much from tbe B-and-C-prospect grab bag there.

  • Preston

    I just don’t see a fit here. I don’t know why the Padres would trade Ross, and I don’t think he’s a great fit for the stadium. I have little interest in paying top dollar for Kennedy. I’d need to know about Tanaka’s health before I started advocating for trading for a reliever, although I’ve always been a big Street fan.

  • mustang

    Cashman targets should either someone like Ross or someone like Hamals if he is giving up a top prospects package. I rather Ross then Hamals but that goes without saying.
    The one thing I don’t want see is giving up a package top prospects for someone like IPK/Lee who might help a bit now, but probably will be dead weight in the future.
    This is a .500 team that’s 3 games back and things don’t have to be as cut and dry as all in or all out. Aim for a fix now with an eye towards the future or just stay pat and make McCarthy type moves.

    • Kosmo

      Bingo. There is no perfect fit. Hamels would be very costly and Ross less so. Yanks could piece together 2 or 3 solid trades and if it doesn´t work out this season at least they´ve helped strengthen the team moving into next season.

    • mustang

      These things never end up as good or as bad as one wants so they probably end up with Lee taking $$$ for a weak to mid package.

    • mustang

      I think the overall rebuilding plan of the Yankees is not as bad as people think. They add key spots that are hard to develop with McCann, Ellsbury and Tanaka which also help in putting fans in the seats who know maybe they get lucky and win something.
      Meanwhile they attacked the international draft and hope that their minor’s leagues develop. The idea being that sometime soon, next 2 to 3 years, they can have the right combo of vets and kids.

  • JohnSD

    Ross or Cashner would require Betances plus two top five prospects at a minimum. Stults could be had for a bag of balls if times are that rough.

    • CMed21

      They might as well of kept Nuno if they wanted a guy like Stults.

    • Chris in Maine

      Might not be a bad idea to sell high on Betances.

  • RetroRob

    The return of IPK would be a little scary. He profiles as an NL West type of pitcher, the exact opposite of pitching in the AL East and Yankee Stadium. A soft-tossing righty fly-ball pitcher. Yikes.

    With all that out of the way, he could still help the Yankees if he could eat innings, but I think the price for him will come too high for what I suspect he’ll deliver.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      He’s nothing, and I mean NOTHING without Melky anyway.

  • Chip

    I suggest staying away from any pitcher who calls PETCO home.

    • Farewell Mo

      This.
      Not to mention most of he NL west plays in pitchers parks compared to the AL east where only the Rays can make that claim.

      • I’m One

        Don’t necessarily need to stay away. Just need to weigh their away metrics more, especially against teams in hitters ball parks.

  • TWTR

    Maybe we can get some “Sellers” posts?

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      He was great in “Dr. Strangelove.”

      • Chris in Maine

        I much prefer Revenge of the Pink Panther.

      • pepes pizza

        Is this Pineda’s biography?

  • Jorge Steinbrenner

    I’d listen on Ross or IPK. I’d wait until the off-season and get the pillow contract with Headley. Other than that, meh.

    I’m also wary of PETCO.

  • Jorge Steinbrenner

    Dr. Ahmad should be right smack in the middle of his lunch break at the moment. I hope the spread is good.

    • Chris in Maine

      I’m sure Tanaka will be the best “show and tell” item at the conference

  • Les

    For my part I would try for a big deal with either the Phillies or Dbacks. Prado and Miley or Coles(the Big Plum for us ) and Utley. Aroid is due back and I think the time off lets the hips heal properly. He will surprise next year. We could also use another starter Maybe a cashner or Ross. Kennedy will never do. he flopped in NY once, that’s enough.

  • Arjun

    realistic trade targets that would ACTUALLY help us right now: willingham, rios, zobrist, headley, lee, hamels, kennedy.
    and one intriguing thought for the offseason: starlin castro–im sure he would have no trouble focusing under the bright lights.

  • Wayne

    God forbid we trade for Kennedy. He’s strictly an NL pitcher, and his HR numbers went down this year only because he’s pitching in pitcher-friendly Petco.

    At best, Kennedy is a #5 starter in the AL, and he’s an ass on top of that. Here’s his stats against the AL from 2011-2013:

    vs. CLE, 4.50 ERA, 1 HR, 8 H, 8 IP

    vs. KC , 6.10 ERA, 2 HR, 16 H, 10.1 IP

    vs. LAA, 2.25 ERA, 1 HR, 6 H, 8 IP

    vs. MIN, 4.70 ERA, 2 HR, 6 H, 7.2 IP

    vs. OAK, 11.12 ERA, 2 HR, 10 H, 5.2 IP

    vs. TB , 5.40 ERA, 1 HR, 6 H, 5 IP

    vs. TEX, 9.53 ERA, 1 HR, 10 H, 5.2 IP

    That’s 10 HRs and 62 hits in 50.1 IP against AL opponents!

    And it’s not like this is anything new for Kennedy; he’s regularly gotten his butt handed to him by AL teams and good NL teams. And he hasn’t fared much better this year in three outings against the AL, giving up 20 hits in 18.2 IP.

    So, for the love of God, NEVER mention Kennedy’s name ever again as a trade target. He’s basically a fair-skinned version of Nuno!