Archive for Ian Kennedy
Signing free agent relief pitchers to large, guaranteed contracts is a high-risk maneuver. The Yankees have learned this over the years, as they’ve signed previously good relievers only to see them falter in pinstripes. Steve Karsay, Paul Quantrill, and Kyle Farnsworth come immediately to mind. The former two had varying degrees of success, but ultimately were not worth the investment. One pitcher who did work out was Tom Gordon, and for a number of reasons. Not only did he mostly pitch effectively in 2004 and 2005 while setting up Mariano Rivera, but he paved the way for the 2006 draft.
After the 2005 season, the Yankees offered Gordon arbitration, but he declined, eventually signing with the Phillies. Even though the Yankees sacrificed their own first round pick that winter by signing Johnny Damon, they picked up the Phillies’, and then a supplemental pick between rounds one and two. With those the Yankees drafted Ian Kennedy and Joba Chamberlain, both of whom shot through the minors and pitched for the big league club in late 2007.
Chamberlain was the high-ceiling, risk pick. Other teams backed off because of a triceps injury, but the Yankees could afford to pounce in the supplemental round. Kennedy was the safer pick. As Mike said on draft day:
Solid pick, but very safe and conservative. He’s not far away from the Bronx. He’s a bit undersized (6’0″, 180) and he doesn’t throw hard, but he’s a winner and strikeout machine.
Mike also described his ceiling as a No. 2, but that was based on Kennedy recovering his fastball speed. After sitting 92-93 in his first two college seasons, Kennedy dipped to 89-91 his Junior year. The point is that Kennedy was never supposed to be a top of the rotation starter, a la Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain. He was the middle of the rotation, possibly back of the rotation guy who had the command to succeed in the bigs.
We didn’t see much of that command. In Kennedy’s 2008 audition it looked like he was downright afraid to put the ball in the strike zone. It’s a shame, because that was one of his strengths. Without that, he predictably failed. Then came the injuries. Though he only lasted a little bit in the majors in 2008, he pitched just 77 minor league innings because of back troubles. His innings total was even lower in 2008 because of an aneurysm in his right armpit. No, Kennedy didn’t do himself any favors in 2008, but he also didn’t catch any breaks.
I think Chad Jennings has a great take on Kennedy. He’s seen him pitch more than any of us, and comes in with a great conclusion to Kennedy’s pinstriped career: “Two bad months in the big leagues — as a 23 year old with one year of professional experience — is hardly enough to judge Kennedy as a pitcher.” He goes onto describe Kennedy’s recovery this fall; he’s working in a two-seam fastball and has started to use his curveball to induce bad contact rather than a swing and miss.
We’ve always liked Kennedy at RAB, hence “Save the Big Three.” But, as many people pointed out at the time, it was really, “Save the Big Two and think hard about what you do with Kennedy.” He was never a player who would hold up a trade, and after two years of ineffectiveness and bad luck, the Yankees decided not to make him an obstacle in the Curstis Granderson trade. It was probably in their best interests. But I’m definitely going to miss Kennedy. He could have played a role on this team.
There are still some minor details left to hammer out, but the Yanks, D-Backs, and Tigers have all agreed on the framework of a three-team trade that will send Curtis Granderson to the Bronx, Edwin Jackson to the desert, and various prospects to MoTown. From the Yanks perspective, it’s basically a swap of Austin Jackson, Ian Kennedy, and Phil Coke for Granderson, the rest is just details.
As always, Keith Law checks in with his take at the four-letter. It’s subscriber only, but I’ll quote the Yankee-relevant parts:
The Yankees also come out ahead simply because they haven’t given up much of value, and in exchange they get an above-average everyday centerfielder. Curtis Granderson is a good defensive centerfielder who hits right-handers well, is a plus runner and gets unanimous raves for his personality. In two of the last three years, however, he hasn’t cracked a .500 OPS against left-handed pitchers and his pitch recognition problems against southpaws look like they’ll be very hard to correct, meaning that the Yankees need to consider a right-handed-hitting centerfielder to caddy for him against at least good left-handed starters. That (hypothetical) two-headed monster would be among the better centerfield solutions in the American League. It’s good they got that player for Jackson, who right now projects as more of an average everyday centerfielder; Coke, a middle reliever who had lost Joe Girardi‘s trust anyway; and Ian Kennedy, who at the very least wasn’t going to crack the Yankees’ rotation again.
Should be noted: Granderson is due $25.75 million over the next three years, including the 2013 buyout.
As a prospect guy, it’s tough to see Jackson and Kennedy go, but it’s a move the Yanks really couldn’t pass up. Jackson isn’t a finished product, and the Yanks essentially swapped him for a guy that represents his best case scenario in terms of value. It would have been real nice to have Kennedy around for depth next year, but that’s the cost of doing business. Coke? Easily replaceable.
By no means is Granderson perfect. He certainly has his flaws, especially against lefties, but he’s a monumental upgrade over the Yanks’ incumbent centerfield tandem. This shouldn’t preclude the Yanks from seeking out a leftfielder, because much of Granderson’s value stems from his production at a premium position. Here’s what Joe wrote about the move at YES Network.
Anyway, here’s your open thread for the night. The Isles are in action, and The Quest For 1-81 continues in Chicago. Anything goes, so have at it.
The rumor started late last night and developed throughout the day. Now it’s close to official: the Yankees have agreed to acquire centerfielder Curtis Granderson from the Tigers in a three team trade. Here’s the breakdown of who will get what:
To Yankees: CF Curtis Granderson
To Tigers: LHP Phil Coke, CF Austin Jackson, RHP Max Scherzer, LHP Dan Schlereth
Joel Sherman says that removing lefty reliever Mike Dunn was a key for the Yankees, who now have some leverage to use against free agent Johnny Damon. Sherman adds that the trade may not be finalized today because “minor details, mainly medicals, take time, must be worked thru.”
In Granderson, the Yankees will get a 28-year-old centerfielder coming off a 30 homerun, 20 steal season. However, he can’t hit lefthanded pitching at all (.210-.270-.344), and his once superb defense is now just slightly above average. The Yanks also pick up some major cost certainty, as Granderson is signed through 2012 for a total of $25.75M, plus there’s an option for 2013. He’s also familiar with Derek Jeter, having played with him during the WBC.
To get Granderson, the Bombers gave up their top prospect coming into 2009 in Austin Jackson, who hit .300-.354-.405 in Triple-A this year. Ian Kennedy’s last act as a Yankee will be pitching a scoreless 8th inning in a meaningless late season game against the Angels, while Phil Coke will be remembered as the guy that gave up two homers in one World Series inning. The move makes a dent in the Yanks’ pitching depth, however the Yanks can make up for some it with the player they take first overall in Thursday’s Rule 5 Draft.
Dave Cameron at FanGraphs calls the deal “almost too good to be true” for the Yanks.
Updated 12:15 a.m.: It looks like Monday was a busier day for the Yankees than we thought. According to Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports, they discussed a three-way trade with the Tigers and Diamondbacks that would have sent Curtis Granderson to New York and Edwin Jackson to Arizona. Talks, however, reached an impasse. The D-Backs are pushing hard, but the deal “was rejected by at least one of the other two teams.”
I originally thought that team to be the Yankees, and Joel Sherman confirmed as much a few minutes ago. The Yanks thought the costs were too high, and the Tigers were lukewarm on their returns as well. Although the three-way talks are dead, the Yankees are still very much interested in Granderson, not least because their interest could drive Johnny Damon‘s price down.
So what then were the costs to this proposed deal? The Yankees would have lost Ian Kennedy, Mike Dunn, Phil Coke, and Austin Jackson in the trade and gotten back Granderson and “one or two prospects from the Diamondbacks.” The Diamondbacks would have sent the Tigers Matt Scherzer and another prospect or two for Edwin Jackson. So, even though they’d be losing two to four prospects in the deal, the Diamondbacks were the ones pushing for this. It made the situation a bit more interesting.
We can forget about Dunn and Coke, because they’re not the ones who were holding up this deal. I doubt Kennedy was, either. If the Yanks are the stalling party, it’s likely over Austin Jackson. He’s still developing, and his lack of power in 2009 is concerning, but he’s still a good prospect, probably the second best in the Yankees system. The Yankees are reluctant to deal him, and for good reason. If that power tool comes around, he could be a very good MLB center fielder.
Granderson is attractive for a number of reasons, as I outlined in this post. He’s trended downward since his breakout 2007 season, but as with Nick Swisher‘s 2008, 2009 could have just been a bad season for Granderson. As I noted, he hit way, way more fly balls than normal, which led to a lower BABIP and, accordingly, batting average. I can definitely see Granderson recovering to his 2008 form, which would be great news for the Yankees. He could instantly replace Johnny Damon in the outfield and in the two-hole.
Getting two prospects back from the Diamondbacks would have helped soften the blow of losing Jackson, but we still don’t know which prospects were under discussion. Without mentioning prospects, the Diamondbacks are getting both Kennedy and Edwin Jackson and giving up only Scherzer. Maybe both the Tigers and the Yanks get a B-prospect from the D-Backs. So is Granderson and a B-prospect worth Austin Jackson?
As with most rumors, I discussed this one with both Ben and Mike for a while before even starting to write. All three of us are on the fence. If the Yanks pulled the trigger, we’d welcome the new center fielder. If they didn’t, we’d maintain hope for Jackson. It’s nice not to be disappointed either way. But, gun to my head, I do the trade. I have faith that Granderson can recover, and while I do want to see Austin Jackson grow into his pinstripes, there are some situations where trading prospects makes sense. I can see this being one of those situations.
In the winter of 2007-2008, when River Ave. Blues was still in its blog infancy, the hot topic of the Hot Stove League was Johan Santana. The Twins were gearing up to trade their lefty ace, and the Yankees were deeply involved in the negotiations.
As the winter dragged on, we staked out a position deemed extreme by many — but not Yanks’ GM Brian Cashman. “Save the Big Three,” we proclaimed, as it became clear that any Johan Santana deal would probably include some combination of Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy along with other top prospects or Major League contributors. The money, we argued, would be better spent on CC Sabathia a year later when the big man hit free agency. Plus, we reasoned, the Yanks wouldn’t have to pay twice for CC, first in prospects and then in dollars, as they would for Santana.
When all was said and done that winter, our position held the day, but it was not without controversy. Throughout 2008 and even into 2009, a debate raged among Yankee fans over that non-trade, and when the Yanks missed the playoffs in 2008 for the first time since 1994, Cashman and the anti-trade faction received its fair share of criticism.
Yet, last winter, the pieces fell into place. The Yanks landed CC Sabathia, and this year, that signing has paid off in a big way. CC took home MVP honors after the ALCS, and after posting tremendous numbers this season, Sabathia has powered his way through three playoff starts. It’s been wine and roses for the Yanks and CC this year.
With the Yanks gearing up to face the Phillies in the World Series, let’s take a look at how those pieces from the Santana trade are doing. I’m going to assume that the most popular iteration of the trade — Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy and Melky Cabrera for Johan Santana — would have gotten the deal done. The Yanks probably would have thrown in a fourth lesser prospect as well.
Still just 23 years old, Hughes has been one of the most heralded young arms in recent Yankee history. He made his debut in 2007 and threw admirably as one of the youngest starters in the league. His 2008, however, was a complete wash. He started the season 0-4 with an ERA of 9.00 and then missed May, June, July and August with a variety of injuries. By the end of 2008, Yankee fans were wondering about the hype, and many rued not trading Hughes when his stock was high.
This year, though, has been an utter revelation for Yankee fans and Phil Hughes. He made a few spot starts in place of Chien-Ming Wang and flashed some decent stuff, but the youngster really came into his own upon moving into the bullpen. As the 8th inning bridge to Mariano, Hughes went 5-1 with a 1.44 ERA in 44 games. In 51.1 innings, he walked just 13 and struck out 65. He put up a 22.7 RAR and a 2.2 WAR out of the bullpen, and without Hughes in the 8th, the Yanks’ season would have played out much differently.
For Melky, 2008 was a setback. He was the subject of many trade rumors and didn’t play well at all. He hit .249/.301/.341 and lost his starting job to Brett Gardner by early August. This year, though, with increased competition from Gardner, Melky responded in turn. Although he faded a bit down the stretch, Melky hit .274/.336/.416 with a career-best in home runs (13), doubles (28) and OPS+ (97). In the ALCS, he went 9 for 23 with four RBI and three walks. At 25, Melky has 2148 Major League plate appearances under his belt and could yet turn into an adequate offensive outfielder.
Similar to Hughes, Kennedy had a terrible 2008. He also went 0-4 with a gaudy 8.17 ERA and found himself demoted after not pitching poorly. To make matters worse, he flashed an attitude unappreciated by many in New York. This year, he had a strong start at AAA but came down with an aneurysm in his arm. He made a triumphant return to the Majors and threw an inning against Anaheim in mid-September. He is currently throwing in the Arizona Fall League where he has allowed five earned runs in 11.1 innings but has a 13:1 K:BB ratio. He will probably factor into the Yanks’ 2010 plans.
The centerpiece of the deal landed in New York after all but in Queens and not the Bronx. He has been a bright spot amidst a dismal Mets team. With the Mets, he has gone 29-16 in 59 starts. He has a 2.79 ERA in the NL and has struck 352 while walking 109 in 401 innings. His K/9 IP in the NL is 1.6 strike outs lower than it was in the AL. This season, his velocity started trending downward, and he missed the final six weeks of the season after undergoing surgery to remove bone chips in his arm. The Mets still owe him at least $98.5 million over the next four seasons or $118 million over five.
Late last week, Cashman spoke with John Harper of the Daily News about this very topic. “When we added David Cone from Toronto,” Cashman said “we were a piece away at the time. But when Santana became available, in my opinion we weren’t a piece away yet. So I told ownership, ‘Listen, six months really isn’t a long time to wait – though it turned out to be a long time for me, to be honest – and if we can have the patience and discipline, I can’t guarantee you we’ll be able to get Sabathia, but think about what our organization will look like if we can add him and keep these other assets.’”
And so today, those assets are still in place. The Yankees are playing the World Series with CC Sabathia, Phil Hughes and Melky Cabrera primed to contribute. Although Ian Kennedy hasn’t yet been what we expected and Melky has hit some development roadblocks over the last few years, the Yankees are right where they expected to be when Cashman turned down the Santana offer. I certainly think it’s worked out nicely for them. Do you?
If I told you that the Yanks would win a game in Anaheim with Jerry Hairston, Jr., Shelley Duncan, Melky Cabrera, Brett Gardner and Jose Molina all in the same lineup, would you believe me? What if I told you that Damaso Marte, Jonathan Albaladejo, Phil Coke and Ian Kennedy would be called upon to get a combined seven outs in the middle of the affair? What if I added that the Yanks hadn’t won a series in Anaheim since May 2004?
In a turn of events sure to confound those fans who are convinced that the Yankees can’t win a game in Angels Stadium, the Bombers’ C lineup and their C bullpen corps downed the Angels today 3-2. Robinson Cano, struggling all year with runners in scoring position, came through with a huge hit, and A.J. Burnett struck out 11 in 5.2 strong innings of work. Ian Kennedy gave us all a heart attack but held down the eighth in his return to the Majors. With their victory, the Yanks saw their Magic Number drop to 5 and their lead above the Red Sox increase to a temporary 6.5.
For the first few innings, the Scott Kazmir/A.J. Burnett pitching duel lived up to its billing. While the Angels left a man on base in every inning of the game, Burnett had the K pitch working this afternoon. He was sitting between 95 and 97 for most of the game and recorded 11 of his 17 outs by the strike out. With that stuff, the runners on base won’t score.
The Yankees broke through first, finally getting to Kazmir in fourth. While Jerry Hairston, Jr., struck out, Mark Teixeira doubled, and Hideki Matsui walked. Shelley Duncan lined a single just over Chone Figgins’ glove to left, and because Teixeira started back to second when it seemed as though Figgins would make the play, Juan Rivera gunned him down at the plate. With two outs, Robinson Cano and his struggles with runners in scoring position came to the plate, he lined a two-out, two-run single to left and advanced on the throw. Melky Cabrera would drive Cano in with a double, and those three runs would be all the Yanks would need.
In the bottom of the fifth, Burnett ran into a spot of trouble. Mike Napoli singled, and Chone Figgins doubled. With two on and no one out, Burnett bore down. He struck out Erick Aybar, and Robinson Cano ranged far to his left to snare a Bobby Abreu ground ball. A run would score, but Burnett pitched out of the inning.
In the sixth, the bullpen would take over. After Burnett allowed another run to score, Damaso Marte retired Figgins. An inning later, Jonathan Albaladejo would take over, but his stay was short-lived. After a double, Phil Coke came in and struck out Kendry Morales. Coke has lost seven pounds over the last two days with a bad stomach bug, but he got a huge out with the tying run in scoring position.
One of the stories of the game around in the 8th. With Al Aceves and Phil Hughes unavailable and Brian Bruney in the dog house, Ian Kennedy came in for his return to the Bigs after aneurysm surgery. He seemed nervous and struggled with his control, loading the bases on a hit by pitch and two walks. But he pitched around it. He got the first out when Juan Rivera lined to Ramiro Peña at third and struck out Maicer Izturis with two on. With the bases loaded, Erick Aybar flew out to Shelley Duncan. Threat over.
In the 9th, Rivera nailed down the game, and all was right with the Yanks. A.J. had another strong start, and Joe will look at his resurgence in the morning. The Yanks knocked another game off the Magic Number counter and have now won three of their last four against Anaheim. The Yanks are sitting pretty.
Hairston Injury Update
Jerry Hairston left the game in the 7th when he felt his wrist pop, and PeteAbe speculates that Hairston’s injury could be serious. Apparently, Hairston first injured his wrist while with the Reds and received an MRI and cortisone shot ten days ago. He will have another scan tomorrow. I wouldn’t expect much from him for the rest of the year, but then again, I wasn’t really expecting much from him anyway.
Feel free to make this an Open Thread. Talk about the game. Talk about Kennedy for the 8th. Talk about the long wait until the Friday night game against the Red Sox. Just play nice.
Here’s a bit of a surprise courtesy of Chad Jennings: The Yankees have activated Ian Kennedy from the disabled list. Kennedy has also been optioned to Tampa which means he’ll likely be starting the Florida State League championship game in about 35 minutes. Kennedy last threw a simulated game on Tuesday and was set to throw another 50-pitch simulated game today. I believe his pitch count will be in place, but he’ll be facing live batters in a real game instead. This is some good news indeed.
A few hours ago, Joe examined the recent spate of arm injuries currently plaguing the Yankee farm system. One of those pitchers is on the mend. Ian Kennedy, five months removed from an aneurysm in his throwing arm, tossed a simulated game yesterday in Tampa. He threw 22 of 33 pitches for strikes and said afterward that he felt good. While Kennedy doesn’t expect to pitch in any of the Minor League playoff games, he will throw a 50-pitch simulated game on Saturday and plans to pitch in both an instructional league this month and the Arizona Fall League starting in October. With a strong fall and a solid spring, Kennedy will be in the mix for a spot on the Big League club next year.
Chad Jennings checks in with a report on rehabbing hurler Ian Kennedy, who made a brief cameo in the Triple-A Scranton clubhouse yesterday. “It feels good,” Kennedy said. “It doesn’t feel like anything ever happened. It’s a long process, but I understand we have to be on the cautious side because if something did happen, I’d be pretty upset at myself for pushing it.” IPK has been throwing 35-pitch bullpen sessions in Tampa, working on all four pitches to both sides of the dish.
He’s not going to make it into a game before the minor league season ends in a little over a week, so instead Kennedy will head to instructional league at the end of September before reporting to the Arizona Fall League. I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to seeing him at full strength next spring.