The Toronto Blue Jays are entering the second half of the campaign with a 45-42 record and are a few games back of a potential Wild Card spot. With the trade deadline roughly two and a half weeks away, general manager Ross Atkins will most likely be adding to the team in order to improve some of the weaker areas on the roster.
While adding an established starting pitcher would be great, there is a better opportunity that Atkins will improve the relief corps, especially since he has already made some acquisitions for relief pitchers over the past few weeks.
He was able to acquire RHP Adam Cimber from the Miami Marlins and RHP Trevor Richards from the Milwaukee Brewers, both players who are pitching well right now and have a few years of arbitration left before hitting free agency. These trades are the type of moves that will help the Jays reach the playoffs, with these moves hopefully not being the last before the trade deadline.
With the Toronto Blue Jays looking to improve the bullpen before the trade deadline, Texas Rangers closer Ian Kennedy could be a low-cost acquisition that benefits the team as they try to make the postseason.
Right now, the Texas Rangers sit last in the AL West and are potentially looking to deal assets as they move towards a possible rebuild. Outfielder Joey Gallo and RHP Kyle Gibson are dominating the trade rumours from the Rangers camp and rightfully so, but the Blue Jays do not necessarily need another outfielder right now and Gibson would be a bit of a risk given his previous pitching history.
One player the Blue Jays should target is right-hander Ian Kennedy, current closer for the Rangers organization.
Once a starting pitcher, the former first-round draft pick has bounced around to a few different organizations over his 15-year career. Beginning his major league tenure with the New York Yankees, Kennedy would also make stops with the Arizona Diamondbacks, San Diego Padres, and Kansas City Royals before signing a minor league contract with the Rangers prior to the 2021 season.
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Through 399 appearances, the California product sports a 4.11 ERA with 168 strikeouts through 1811.2 innings of work. The Royals converted Kennedy to a relief role back in 2019 after spending the previous 12 seasons as a starting pitcher, and while his 2020 campaign was roughed up to a 9.00 ERA, the Rangers closer has turned over a new leaf in 2021. Through 30 games, Kennedy has pitched to a 2.67 ERA with 32 strikeouts, seven walks, and a 1.055 WHIP with 15 saves.
The righty is currently on a one-year deal with the Rangers and is only earning $2.15 million this season, meaning he would be considered a rental if the Blue Jays were to acquire him. The 36-year-old would bring in veteran experience to the club’s bullpen and is having a good season on the mound in high leverage situations with the Rangers.
Considering he is also on a one-year deal and an abundance of other relief options on the trade market like Craig Kimbrel and Richard Rodriguez, Kennedy may be a solid acquisition that would not cost as much as other arms that may be available. He may get some attention from playoff contending teams but the price should not be as high as other players with contract control (like Rodriguez) unless they decide to expand the deal for Gallo, Gibson, or another player on the roster.
Multiple prospects in AA or AAA who are not on the club’s top #30 prospect list could get the deal done or one player from the 15 -20 mark could also be enough to convince Texas to trade their closer, who will most likely leave the organization at the end of the year after the season he is having.
The price could go up if the competition gets heated between playoff-bound teams but should still be less than any deal for Kimbrel or Rodriguez. If the ask starts to get around the 10-15 prospect mark then the deal should be avoided in my opinion, but for the right price, Kennedy would be a great addition to the relief corps.
Ian Kennedy would improve the Blue Jays bullpen and could be a low-cost acquisition similar to the Adam Cimber trade (although that was more of a salary dump with Corey Dickerson being included).
While he may not be the flashiest signing compared to other arms on the market, a veteran pitcher with experience like Kennedy is an improvement rather than a setback if he can continue to pitch like he is with the Rangers this season.