The Miami Marlins are looking to acquire talent in trades before this season's trade deadline, but that talent would have to be a good organizational fit. Part of what makes them a good organizational fit is team control in the 2015 season. The Fish are not looking for rentals this year in part because they are so far away from the NL East divisional lead following their six-game losing skid that sandwiched the All-Star break. Miami would rather have some talent available to bank on for next season as well as this year.
One of the positions of need is starting pitching, which became a surprising weakness this year thanks to the injury to Jose Fernandez. Fernandez is expected to be out with Tommy John surgery recovery for 12-18 months, putting his timeline for return potentially past the 2015 season at its latest. If Miami wants to convince Stanton that the franchise is ready to compete, maybe the rotation could use some assistance beyond Henderson Alvarez and Nathan Eovaldi.
Enter the possibility of San Diego Padres starter Ian Kennedy. Kennedy was an All-Star candidate in 2014 with a 3.62 ERA and 2.97 FIP in 129 1/3 innings for the Padres. His performance this year has reinvigorated a stagnant career path, and he is arbitration-eligible in 2015, meaning he would be under team control. Would the Marlins be able to pull off a trade for a good addition like Kennedy?
Kennedy has had a good season so far in 2014. His strikeout rate has soared to 25.6 percent, the highest it has ever been since he became a starting pitcher in the majors. His home run rate has dropped after a disastrous few years in Arizona, though a good amount of that can be attributed to Petco Park in San Diego. Overall, his performance has improved over the ugly mess he posted the last few years with the Diamondbacks; his ERA is back down to around the league average after park adjustment, and his FIP indicates a better underlying performance.
This all adds up to a decent expected performance from Kennedy. If he is expected to put up 0.9 Wins Above Replacement for the rest of 2014 in 80 innings, then combined with next season, we would expect a two-win pitcher over the course of a full year. That is a decent performance worth $16.5 million in free agent money over the next year-plus.
The problem for Kennedy is that he is likely owed a fair chunk of money in arbitration. He is owed a little more than $2 million this season and probably will get a jump to close to $9 million after he earned $6 million in 2014. That is a total of $11.5 million in salary commitment for an acquiring team, meaning his trade value sits at just $5 million.
Fit for Marlins
Kennedy would be another fantastic trade target fit for Miami. His style of pitching could not fit in a park like Chase Field in Arizona, but the heavy fly ball style fits well in more spacious confines like Petco Park or Marlins Park. The stadium's expansive outfield could probably hold a fair number of fly balls in the yard, leaving Kennedy's improved strikeouts-to-walks performance to carry the day.
The added outfield is aided even more by Miami's currently tremendous outfield defensive cast. Even if GIancarlo Stanton eventually leaves right field, the Marlins could boast a terrifying trio of Christian Yelich, Jake Marisnick, and Marcell Ozuna to snag errant fly balls down in the outfield. That would help Kennedy's run numbers even more.
Of course, the biggest thing is that it would give Miami a third solid contributor to the rotation for 2015 in case the Fish have to navigate that season without Jose Fernandez. Fernandez is expected to begin throwing in September, but the recovery from Tommy John surgery requires three to six months of slowly ramping up throwing regiments before going to full-on throwing. This timetable puts him close to ready around May or June, but if he is not, Miami would still have a respectable rotation with Kennedy on board. A Kennedy-Alvarez-Eovaldi-Heaney quartet would not be a bad start, and it would look better with Fernandez leading the way at some point.
The problem here again is the trade package required. The Padres have a bevy of pitching talent and a shortage of bats, which is exactly what the Marlins have as well. Beyond that, the Padres value Kennedy highly, likely more highly than his actual trade value. It is possible they see him as an extension candidate in the same vein as guys like Carlos Quentin and Seth Smith, veterans whom the Padres want filling holes in their young roster and getting them closer to contention. That plan sound familiar?
The Marlins only have two batting prospects of interest. Colin Moran has had his struggles but is recuperating after an ugly start in High-A Jupiter, but his stock has likely dropped a bit from the beginning of the year. Jake Marisnick was still on some top-100 prospect lists before 2014, but after a below-average season in Triple-A, you have to think he has fallen out of favor as well. Miami may be willing to send Marisnick as part of a package with another pitcher, but the Padres may really want to keep Kennedy and may ask for the moon.
A package of Marisnick and a pitcher like Justin Nicolino or Adam Conley should more than do it given Kennedy's salary commitments. Then again, because the Padres value possible contention next season, they probably are less willing to trade Kennedy and may bump up his price even further. Knowing this, I doubt we have a trade partner fit between the two teams.