Ian Kennedy's season has not gone according to plan, but then again, neither has that of the Padres. They've both performed worse than expected thanks to injuries and odd inconsistencies that weren't supposed to plague them, but, now that they've combined forces following his trade from the Diamondbacks, they might be able to help right each others' ships.
Kennedy was excellent in 2011, helping to lead the Diamondbacks to the NLCS with a 137 ERA+ and 222 innings. His command has slipped a bit since then, however, and it's led to more walks and more homers, and eventually resulted in his off 2013 in which he's posted a 74 ERA+. The Diamondbacks are once again in the playoff hunt, and have pitching prospects like Tyler Skaggs knocking on the door awaiting an opportunity even after injured starters Brandon McCarthy and Trevor Cahill return from the DL: removing Kennedy from the equation, and for pieces the Diamondbacks can use now like reliever Joe Thatcher, makes a lot of sense in the present, and that's the place where GM Kevin Towers tends to concern himself with. Hey, it's worked for him this long.
Photo credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
So, why would the Padres want someone whose command has slipped, who has been so thoroughly smashed by opposing lineups? Well, for one, they've been using Jason Marquis in 2013, until he was lost to Tommy John surgery, and are employing Edinson Volquez as a starting pitcher. You're willing to take a lot of risks when you're used to seeing arms like that pitch. To Kennedy's credit, even without the influence of pitcher-friendly Petco Park and with the effects of Chase Field, he has a lower ERA than Volquez has managed through the season's first four months.
Kennedy's command obviously needs fixing, but, if nothing else, Petco should help mitigate some of those issues. He might not turn things around immediately, but he doesn't have to: he's just in his first year of arbitration, and won't be a free agent until 2016 at the earliest. The two sides can use the off-season to try to recapture some of the magic, and if he can even get back to 2012 levels, where he was an average hurler capable of tossing 200 innings, then the Padres will have done well for themselves.
San Diego's rotation is a mess, but there is reason to believe that time and a little bit of Kennedy could turn things around. Cory Luebke and Joe Wieland have both missed the entire year due to Tommy John surgery and setbacks in their recovery, but they should both be good to go -- and far removed from the procedure -- in time for the 2014 season. Andrew Cashner hasn't been great, but he's still just 26 and in his first full year as a starter in the bigs. They still have Eric Stults as depth, if nothing else, will have pitching prospect Casey Kelly back from his own TJ at some point in 2014, and will see Robbie Erlin a year older with more experience in the upper minors and majors under his belt. There's a lot to like about the 2014 rotation once it comes together, and if Kennedy, as mentioned, can take his turn on the hill every five days and do even a mediocre job of things, it'll help considerably in relation to what they're suffering through now.
The Padres can hit. They should have been able to pitch, but between injuries and relying on the likes of Volquez, it just didn't happen for long enough to dig them out of their early season hole for long. Kennedy might not be a cure all, and he might never be the pitcher he was back in 2011 again, but he doesn't have to be for this to work out for San Diego.
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