It is really easy to make jokes at the expense of Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers. In the eyes of most internet-based baseball analysts, Towers places too much value on intangibles, gives his tough guy manager too much say in personnel moves and seems to dump quality players at the drop of the hat, often overpaying marginally talented ballplayers.
Sometimes, it works. The Snakes won the 2011 NL West with a ragtag bunch of castoffs (or so the narrative goes) and the 2013 edition of the DBacks sits in second place in the division, trailing the Reds by four games in the race for the second Wild Card spot.
Today, in a counter-intuitive move, Towers traded one of the key contributors to that 2011 division title Ian Kennedy, to the San Diego Padres for left-handed reliever Joe Thatcher, double-A prospect Matt Stites and a compensation pick in next year’s draft.
What a joke, right? Ian Kennedy was a 5 WAR pitcher just two seasons ago! He’s just in his first season of arbitration eligibility! What is Towers doing?!
There is a strong chance that Kevin Towers knows exactly what he’s doing. There is a strong chance that Kevin Towers sees a player whose numbers are down across the board – though it remains unlikely that Towers sees/cares about those numbers.
Ian Kennedy rest-of-season ERA projections: ZiPS 4.01, Steamer 3.98, PECOTA 3.81.
— Sky Kalkman (@Sky_Kalkman) July 31, 2013
Anybody can look at Kennedy’s Fangraphs page and know what he was – a strike-throwing pitcher who relies on fly balls staying on this side of the fence. Kevin Towers and his team of baseball ops folks perhaps see somebody else – a pitcher who lives in the strike zone who appears increasingly hittable. They got one very reliable reliever and a player who might turn into more than a reliable reliever in the future in exchange for their Opening Day starter for each of the last three seasons.
The Padres see what they always see: a fly ball pitcher who should thrive in their enormous ballpark. They give up two relievers as though they don’t have dozens more waiting in the wings, ready to hurl slider and slider until their elbows explode. The three years of team control they hold over Kennedy is a nice bonus for the thrifty Friars.
It comes back to what you believe. Towers and friends must believe Kennedy’s best days are behind him. Josh Byrnes believes in Ian Kennedy – this is the second time Byrnes has acquired IPK via trade.
Byrnes believe Ian Kennedy can work in his ballpark for the future – at a tidy discount. The numbers suggest Kennedy could bounce back but if that was all there was to go on, we’d all be GMs. Perhaps the derided Towers approach has something going for it? At the very least, it keeps Kevin Towers consecutive days not giving a shit what you think streak alive and nearing 10000.