If the trade of Ian Kennedy to the Padres does anything for the Diamondbacks, it tends to throw the starting rotation into further chaos.
Save the stellar season by left-hander Patrick Corbin, the combined production of appointed starters has been less than striking. Only Wade Miley (1.59 ERA in last seven starts and a quality win Wednesday over the Rays) seemed to pick himself off the mat.
The experiment of Tyler Skaggs joining the rotation, for now, is a failure and only the spirited effort and production of Randall Delgado remains encouraging.
Brandon McCarthy and Trevor Cahill, two pitchers in which the Diamondbacks depended, remain on the disabled list. Kennedy’s spot in the rotation, for now, falls to rookie Zeke Spruill, whom the D-backs acquired last winter from Atlanta as part of the Justin Upton deal.
For now, Spruill is slated to go up against the Rangers’ Yu Darvish in a make-up game Thursday night in Arlington, Texas, and from that point, his status at the major league level remains uncertain.
Kennedy’s turn would be this Sunday in Fenway Park against the Red Sox, and McCarthy, on the DL since June 1 with right shoulder inflammation, is slated to come off and go at that time.
Plus, right-hander Cahill, on the DL since July 1 with a right hip contusion, is at least two rehab starts from activation. It can also be argued that Cahill’s struggling 3-10 record and 4.66 ERA to show for 17 starts was a liability in the rotation. If Kennedy was not moved, it’s possible Cahill would languish on the DL for additional weeks.
What the trade of Kennedy means is that the Diamondbacks have a short toleration for mediocrity.
It can be argued general manager Kevin Towers, and other front office personnel, looked at Kennedy’s 21-4, 2.88 ERA season two years ago as an aberration. Take away that isolated season, and Kennedy, for parts of five other major league seasons, is 28-34. With that 21 win season, Kennedy departs with an overall mark of 49-38 with the Yankees and Diamondbacks.
“With Ian, we started to see some trends,” Towers told FOX Sports Arizona right after the trade. “We went after a need and who knows about this trade, or any other trade. Only time will tell.”
In exchange for Kennedy, the Diamondbacks acquired left-hander reliever Joe Thatcher and right-handed relief prospect Matt Stites from San Diego. To augment lefty Tony Sipp, who has a tendency to be more effective against right-handed hitters, Towers said he wanted to address an immediate issue of left-handed help in the bullpen.
If the Diamondbacks are to compete with the Dodgers for the National League West Division crown, Thatcher could be an important addition and be effective against Dodger left-handed bats of Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier.
“To feel wanted by Towers is a great,” Thatcher told FOX Sports San Diego right after the deal. “I think this is a good deal for both teams and I know the Diamondbacks are in the middle of a pennant race. I’ll come in and do everything I can to help this team win.”
Yet, Kennedy’s fall from grace started last season.
For the first half of the season, the 28 year-old right-hander went 6-8 and three no decisions. Over the season half, he posted a 9-5 record with two no decisions. Seemingly, Kennedy was beset with location issues and gave up 29 home runs a year ago.
Slow out of the gate this season, Kennedy struggled from the start.
At the time of the trade to San Diego, he was 3-8 and a 5.23 ERA. Kennedy’s last victory was June 1 against the Cubs in Wrigley Field, and he was winless in the subsequent two months.
“I know this is a business, and I’ll miss these guys,” Kennedy told FOX Sports Arizona before departing for California. “I’m excited about going to San Diego, and will do what I can to help the Padres win.”
As he departed, the rap against Kennedy was two-fold.
His fast ball location was terrible. Kennedy had a tendency to elevate his fast ball in the strike zone, and was left at the mercy of opposing bats. While his curve and change-up was considered effective, Kennedy’s lack of fast ball command made him, in the minds of Diamondbacks officials, expendable.
Plus, his character and athletic disposition was comprised, and Kennedy appeared in search in a tenacious, competitive personality on the playing field.
Another reason to move Kennedy was because of a traffic jam on the mound.
Waiting for a crack in the starting rotation, Towers told FOX Sports Arizona, there remains a plethora of strong arms in the minor leagues, including Archie Bradley, David Holmberg, Charles Brewer, Spruill and Skaggs.
In Kennedy’s case, the Diamondbacks clearly demonstrated “a what have you done for me lately” attitude, and concluded Kennedy showed little.
Perhaps the key to the deal is Stites, a 23 flamer-thrower out of Festus, Mo. In Double A San Antonio this season, Stitles complied a 2-2, 2.08 ERA, 14 saves in 48 games and fanned 51 hitters in 52 innings.
Yet, he recently underwent an emergency appendectomy and his return is uncertain.
Last year in Single A Fort Wayne, Stites was 2-0 with 13 saves in 42 games. His ERA was a sparkling 0.74 and he recorded 60 strike outs in 48 and two-third innings.
His fast ball is clocked in the upper 90s and Towers told FOX Sports Arizona that Stites, at 5-11, 170 pounds, could emerge as the Diamondbacks closer of the future.