Offseason Hot Stove: Rangers Interested in Ian Kennedy

Calvin Watkins writes that the Texas Rangers are interested in Padres' RHP Ian Kennedy, someone I've noted multiple times that makes a lot of sense for the vacated #3 spot in the starting rotation next year.  Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors projects Kennedy to earn $10.3 million in 2015, his final arbitration year before becoming a free agent after the season. 

Save about 40 innings with the Yankees between 2008 and '09, Ian has pitched exclusively in the National League -- the NL West, to be specific -- since 2010. Surprisingly, among pitchers who have been in the NL over that time frame, Kennedy has been the 12th-most valuable pitcher in the league, generating +13.6 fWAR (about +2.7/year) in route to a 3.81 ERA (3.86 xFIP). His peripherals don't exactly jump out at you; he has a career 21.3% strikeout rate to go with an 8% walk rate -- in line with most mid-rotation starters -- but he makes up for it in durability: In the last five years he is one of only three NL pitchers to log north of 1,000 innings, along with Clayton Kershaw and Cole Hamels. 

What Kennedy lacks in the sexy department he compensates for with consistency. In the last five years he's produced +2.9, +0.5, +2.9, +4.9 and +2.4 fWAR, respectively. Given the volatility of starting pitching, we can forgive his replacement-level 2013 campaign in the same vein we can admit he probably overachieved in his 4th-place Cy Young Award +4.9 fWAR season in 2011. The truth lies somewhere in the middle, and the middle of the Rangers rotation is exactly where Kennedy is supposed to fit in 2015. No one will complain if he produces his typical +2.5-3.0 wins next year. That's what we need him for. 

This goes without mentioning, until now, of course, the perceived relationship between Jon Daniels and new Padres GM A.J. Preller. The marriage just makes too much sense. Texas are clearly in the market for rotation help, and by dealing with the Rangers -- and a farm system he's undeniably familiar with and largely responsible for -- it's beneficial for Preller to pick and choose from there. It helps Daniels that he basically has an automatic trade partner in the opposite league, but it's equally damning that A.J. Preller has more knowledge of Rangers minor leaguers than any other team in baseball. He isn't likely to miss on the prospects he covets in a return for Ian Kennedy, who is, along with Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross, the least valuable of the starters on San Diego's trade block.  

Kennedy isn't going to wow you by anything he does on the mound, but if you slot him behind Yu Darvish and Derek Holland, in front of Colby Lewis and Nick Tepesch, at the very least it fortifies Texas's rotation in 2015. Yeah, there's the upside of having a pitcher in a contract year with the thought that he can outperform his projections, but more realistically you're looking at an innings-eater who will generate a couple wins above replacement, giving you something in the neighborhood of a 4.00 ERA over 200 innings. 

That's nothing special in the modern pitching climate, but it's something the Rangers need desperately, and at around $10 million for only one season, Kennedy provides a reasonable stopgap while Martin Perez's left arm improves.