Chicago Cubs: Ian Kennedy likely to be a prime winter target


With a clear-stated goal of adding starting pitching in-tow, the Chicago Cubs could look to San Diego Padres’ right-hander Ian Kennedy this winter.

The work turned in by Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester this year was outstanding. Sure, some would have expected a bit more from the latter, given his record contract, but, in all, the pair formed a formidable one-two punch atop the Chicago rotation.

After that, though, things got shaky fast. Jason Hammel, who was so good during the season’s first-half, was an altogether different pitcher post-All-Star Break, and Kyle Hendricks was inconsistent, although he finished the year strong for Chicago.

Dan Haren, who retired upon the conclusion of the NLCS, was added at the deadline to shore up the fifth spot in the staff, so that slot is now altogether vacant heading into the offseason, although Travis Wood and Clayton Richard could both get a look after solid second-half performances.

Either way, the Chicago Cubs need pitching help. Adding a legitimate no. three to slot in behind Arrieta and Lester would go a long way in addressing one of the team’s more inconsistent aspects – and there are plenty of top-tier names available on the free agent market.

Those top-tier names, including David Price and Zack Greinke, also come with top-tier price tags, which is something Chicago may look to avoid in order to keep max dollars available in discussions with Jake Arrieta, who will be a free agent after the 2017 season – but make no mistake, the team will be active this winter.

One such target is free agent to-be Ian Kennedy, who is coming off a down year in San Diego, which should help drive his price down, at least to a degree.

The right-hander lost 15 games this year, but as the Cubs saw with Lester this season – a win/loss record means next-to-nothing when evaluating a starting pitcher’s success. However, more concerning were the rises in his earned run average and home runs allowed per nine – which is troubling given Petco Park is one of the most pitcher-friendly places in all of baseball.

As noted above, without any eye-popping numbers or particularly impressive accolades under his belt in recent years, the price on Kennedy should be manageable, to say the least. This will allow Chicago to maximize its available financial resources, filling more holes – perhaps adding another starting pitcher or shoring up the bullpen.

Kennedy is the stereotypical middle-of-the-rotation starting pitcher. The right-hander is just over .500 in his big league career and holds a 3.98 earned run average over the course of 1,234 big-league innings.

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He’s also done some impressive things on the hill, make no mistake. As a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks back in 2011, he won 21 games, finishing amongst the top vote-getters in the National League Cy Young race – thanks largely in-part to a 2.88 ERA and 198 strikeouts.

But that’s not what the Chicago Cubs should expect from Kennedy moving forward. He’s posted an ERA below 4.00 just once since then and is best suited for a low-spotlight role in the starting rotation.

Personally, I don’t see Ian Kennedy being more than a .500 pitcher who will give you six innings per start. But given the state of the Cubs’ rotation heading into next winter, such a signing – especially once paired with pitching coach Chris Bosio – could make a world of difference in the coming season.

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