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Potential Twins Bullpen Target: Ian Kennedy, RHP, Royals

As we move into July, we are getting closer and closer to the time where the Minnesota Twins need to make a move in order to solidify their bullpen for a postseason run. As we have seen in recent years, it’s of upmost importance for teams to have as many relievers that they can trust to get big outs in the postseason as possible. Fortunately for the Twins, relievers who can help a team in the postseason seem to be in abundance. Here at Twins Daily, we have already posted an article on more than a dozen potential relievers the Twins could target, and today we continue that list with Kansas City Royals closer Ian Kennedy.
Image courtesy of © Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Ian Kennedy has been an established MLB starting pitcher for more than a decade now. Kennedy was the New York Yankees first-round draft pick back in 2006 out of the University of Southern California. It didn’t take Kennedy long to get to the majors, as he made his MLB debut just a year later in 2007. After not having much success in his first few seasons with the Yankees, they traded Kennedy to the Arizona Diamondbacks as part of the three-team deal that sent Curtis Granderson to the Yankees and Max Scherzer to the Detroit Tigers. After a couple of good seasons as a starter for the Diamondbacks Kennedy started to struggle in 2012 and was eventually traded to the San Diego Padres at the 2013 July trade deadline. After a couple of decent seasons with the Padres, Kennedy signed a five-year $70 million-dollar deal with the defending champion Kansas City Royals in January of 2016.

After the 2018 season, it was clear that the 34-year-old pitcher was losing a step, which played a part in the Royals transitioning Ian Kennedy to the bullpen this offseason. This move has paid off big for both Kennedy and the Royals. In 32 innings, across 31 relief appearances, Kennedy has a 3.38 ERA (2.06 FIP), with a 11.25 K/9 and just a 1.41 BB/9. Among the 173 qualified relievers this season, Kennedy’s 8.0 strikeout to walk ratio ranks 4th. This will be very attractive to the Twins front office which has shown an affinity for pitchers with excellent strikeout and walk numbers.

We often hear how a move to the bullpen helps a starting pitcher gain some velocity on his fastball, and all of a sudden, he are a new and improved pitcher. In a game with so much complexity it’s hard to believe something as simple as this can make such a big difference, but with Ian Kennedy it has. In 2018, Kennedy averaged 91.9 MPH on his four-seam fastball. This year, that number is up two full ticks to 93.9 MPH. This has helped Kennedy hold opposing hitters to a .189 batting average and a .214 wOBA against his fastball, both marks are easily the best of his career. What amplifies this effect is that Kennedy is throwing his fastball on a career high 65 percent of hit pitches. With such a drastic improvement on a pitch that he throws over 60% of the time, it is no wonder why Kennedy has been so much better this year.

One thing the Twins will have to consider when trading for Ian Kennedy is the money left on his contract. Kennedy is currently on year four of that five-year deal I mentioned previously, which would give the Twins control through 2020 if they were to trade for him. While this would be a nice addition, the $16.5 million that Kennedy is due in both 2019 and 2020 will give the Twins some pause. The money for 2019 might not be so intimidating as he will only be owed roughly $5.5 million if the Twins were to trade for him at the July 31st trade deadline. The part that might keep them from wanting to deal for Kennedy is the $16.5 million owed to him in 2020. That is a substantial amount of money, for a reliever, and that could drastically alter their plans for this upcoming offseason. At the same rate, Kennedy’s contract will probably make him available for cheap in terms of prospect capital, so if their focus is on maintaining as many of their prospects as possible, while still adding to the team, Kennedy could be a great target.

See Also
Sergio Romo, RHP, Marlins
Shane Greene, RHP, Tigers
Felipe Vázquez, LHP, Pirates
Will Smith, LHP, Giants
Liam Hendriks, RHP, Athletics
Ty Buttrey, RHP, Angels
Ken Giles, RHP, Blue Jays
Sam Dyson, RHP, Giants
Brad Hand, LHP, Indians
Oliver Perez, LHP Cleveland
Robert Stephenson, RHP, Reds
John Gant, RHP, Cardinals
Alex Colome, RHP, White Sox
Seth Lugo, RHP, Mets
Greg Holland, RHP, Diamondbacks
Sean Doolittle, LHP, Nationals
Kirby Yates, RHP, Padres
10 Relievers Minnesota Could Target


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13 Comments

I like him as a 2nd reliever to target after targeting more elite options such as Giles. We need to get at least 1 elite and 1 very good reliever added to the bullpen for the playoffs. I think we have some good prospects we need to add to the 40 man that would be sufficient to get him with potentially a modest amount of money included by KC. Someone like Jaylin Davis up to a Griffen Jax/Luke Raley type should be doable given his contract cost for next year.

    • 70charger likes this

I think this move within the division is absolutely do-able and the Twins have the room to pay his salary in 2020. I like the way his numbers are trending, so I'd be very happy if they could make this move.

    • nicksaviking likes this
Kennedy seems available and realistic, and at least appears to have made a successful transition to the pen.
    • nicksaviking likes this

Kennedy IMHO is the best fit as I assume the Royals would eat some payroll.The Royals will not be contending by 2020 so if they can save half that payroll money and pick up a middling prospect this deal could get done. It makes sense from the Twins side by adding needed bullpen help without having to part with a top 20 prospect. 

    • 70charger, DocBauer and Andrew Thares like this
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jorgenswest
Jul 01 2019 05:31 AM
I would be very concerned that his swing and miss rate has not changed and his xFIP is 3.71.

Someone will be buying high here. I think he had a mediocre second half.

There have been some great articles about all of these targets - thanks TD for putting these together! Seriously where else could you find this kind of comprehensive covereage? Free?

 

Anyway, out of all of these options, Kennedy is definitely not my favorite. Guy's been around since the Carter administration, it seems. Always reminded me of a Kevin Correia for whatever reason.

 

Just seems that with so many other options, Kennedy should definitely be Plan C or Plan D (if other deals don't work out or the cost is too high). I wouldn't mind if he showed up in a Twins uniform, but I hope he's not the headliner of the summer.

 

I see others here think differently and that's cool.

    • 70charger and Seansy like this
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diehardtwinsfan
Jul 01 2019 06:27 AM

 

I like him as a 2nd reliever to target after targeting more elite options such as Giles. We need to get at least 1 elite and 1 very good reliever added to the bullpen for the playoffs. I think we have some good prospects we need to add to the 40 man that would be sufficient to get him with potentially a modest amount of money included by KC. Someone like Jaylin Davis up to a Griffen Jax/Luke Raley type should be doable given his contract cost for next year.

 

I'm greedy. I want two elite options, so I really don't see this one as an option unless all the other ones don't happen. 

 

We've got the prospect capital to get Giles and Smith if we want them. 

    • nicksaviking, Kelly Vance, Tomj14 and 1 other like this
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terrydactyls1947
Jul 01 2019 09:39 AM
We all believe the Twins have plenty of prospect capital to acquire all the pitching help we need. But how do other teams view our talent pool? Is there any site that can provide that sort of insight?
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Andrew Thares
Jul 01 2019 09:43 AM

 

We all believe the Twins have plenty of prospect capital to acquire all the pitching help we need. But how do other teams view our talent pool? Is there any site that can provide that sort of insight?

Baseball America and MLB.com are two national sites that do a good job rating prospects. Both sites agree that the Twins have a Top-10 farm system.

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terrydactyls1947
Jul 01 2019 09:51 AM
But how do other teams like our farm system? Do the Giants see anyone they really want? Or the Royals or Mets?

Kind of reminds me of the off season where posters say they expect or hope for 3 proven aces, three proven relievers and three proven position players.nInstead we get a .760 OPS 1st baseman that we hope has a career year (Cron, he has so far), A 2nd baseman that we hope has a rebound year from a .202 2018 average (Schoop, he has so far), an aging veteran like many in years past where we hope he has a little left in the tank (Cruz, he does) a career4.6 ERA guy for the tail of the rotation that we hope can do better (Perez, he has so far) and one functional reliever (Parker), My point is you can be greedy all you want but getting 2 elite relievers probably isn't happening.I would be happy to get Kennedy and be done because that is my minimum reasonable expectation and I think one guy would really help this pen.I would be happier to get Smith or Giles because either one of those guys is more than I expect we will get. Just like the offseason, getting less than we want may still be all that we need.I still have hopes of Graterol helping us in the pen.Any word on his outlook?

If the twins take most of the contract he should cost a PTBNL
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Aerodeliria
Jul 01 2019 10:06 PM
I'd take Kennedy but my aim would be Giles or Smith.

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