Rumors are swirling that a trade may be in the works to help shore up the starting rotation for the Colorado Rockies. The Rockies are reportedly in talks with the New York Yankees to swap center fielder Willy Taveras for starting pitcher Ian Kennedy.
The Rockies have made it well known that they are in the market for a starting pitcher this winter. Most pundits have assumed that they would be dangling All Star outfielder Matt Holliday or slugging third baseman Garrett Atkins.
In Colorado, Taveras has become expendable to make room for top prospect Dexter Fowler, another speedster who also hits for average and power. Even if the Rockies choose to let Fowler gain some experience in Triple-A Colorado Springs, they still have Ryan Spilborghs and Seth Smith to man center field.
In New York, the Yankees are looking for an upgrade in center after Melky Cabrera turned in a disappointing '08 season. Taveras' numbers (.251 BA, .308 OBP) nearly mirror Cabrera's (.249 BA, .301 OBP), except in the stolen-base department, where Taveras set a Rockies record with 67 stolen bags.
The Rockies have made no bones about the fact that they are in the market for a front-line starting pitcher; however, they will not break the bank to sign an overpriced free agent.
Ian Kennedy, the 21st overall pick in the 2006 draft, wore out his welcome in New York after shrinking in the spotlight. The Yankees' were expecting both Kennedy, 23, and Philip Hughes, 22, to be the new wave of elite pitchers to surface in the Bronx.
Kennedy has struggled in his limited time in the big leagues; in 58-2/3 innings, he has gone 1-4 with a 6.14 ERA.
Both players have an extreme upside. Scouts have said that Taveras, who is one year removed from hitting .320, is still learning how to read pitchers and steal bases. George Frazier, the Rockies' TV analyst, believes that Taveras could steal 100 bases in a season sometime in his career. He is entering his second year of arbitration and could only improve at the plate hitting in front of Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez.
Kennedy is still young, he was a first-round pick in 2006, and he may have not been given enough time to mature into the major-league player that he has the potential to be.
In Colorado, he would be able to mature in a much more relaxed environment than that of New York City where the media constantly makes demands, and the Steinbrenner's are ready to pull the trigger at the first sign of struggle.
A trade to Colorado would also reunite Kennedy with high-school teammate and close friend Ian Stewart.
With Taveras in pinstripes, the Yankees would have a new mix of speed at the top of the lineup that would have the potential to force pitchers to think about speed on the bases, as well as power in the box—a mixture the Rays used to win the 2008 A.L. pennant.
The trade may fit both clubs' needs by providing a young arm in the Rockies' rotation that will not hit the free-agent market for several years, and it'll help the Yankees get a few more runners in scoring position for the middle of the lineup.