Ian Kennedy: Two Years After the Yankees Traded Him, Having the Last Laugh

Matthew CohenContributor IIIApril 27, 2012

PHOENIX, AZ - APRIL 22:  Starting pitcher Ian Kennedy #31 of the Arizona Diamondbacks pitches against the Atlanta Braves during the MLB game at Chase Field on April 22, 2012 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Ian Kennedy made his Major League debut with the New York Yankees on September 1st, 2007. He earned the win, allowing one earned run in seven innings, striking out six, walking two and allowing five hits. 

Kennedy said of his wait in the clubhouse before the game: “I didn’t want to be shellshocked. I wanted to act like I belong here. It’s a dream come true. You see the stadium on TV and you wish and hope you’ll be out there like those guys.”

Two years later, the Yankees traded their 2006 first-round draft pick in a three-team trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Detroit Tigers.

The Detroit Tigers sent center fielder Curtis Granderson to the New York Yankees and starting pitcher Edwin Jackson to the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Yankees sent center fielder Austin Jackson and reliever Phil Coke to the Detroit Tigers, and Kennedy to the Diamondbacks. And the Diamondbacks sent starter Max Scherzer and reliever Daniel Schlereth to the Tigers.

Looking back, it is a rare three-team trade that actually benefited all parties.

For Kennedy, it had been a rough two years in pinstripes. Along with other young starting pitchers Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain, Kennedy was viewed as the future of the Yankees' rotation. Yet in 2008, Kennedy only pitched in ten games, going 0-4 with a 8.17 ERA. He missed all of 2009 because of a blood clot in his throwing arm.

Hughes meanwhile, was pulled out of a potential trade for Johan Santana in the 2008 offseason. The Yankees first-round pick in 2004 was projected as a front-of-the-line starter. He played a critical role in 2009, serving as the setup man as the Yankees went on to win the World Series.

ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 25:  Phil Hughes #65 of the New York Yankees leaves the game against the Texas Rangers at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on April 25, 2012 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

As for Chamberlain, he set the world on fire when he was called up in late 2007. Joba pitched to a 0.38 ERA, striking out 34 batters in 24.0 innings. At the time, he looked like the heir apparent to Mariano Rivera, the Yankee's great closer. Joba's 2008 was equally as dominant, as he pitched to a 2.60 ERA in 100.1 innings. 

The Yankees made the decision in December of 2009 that of the three—Kennedy, Hughes, and Chamberlain—Kennedy was the most expendable. They shipped him off to Arizona, with the hopes of signing Cliff Lee the following offseason. 

A month into the 2012 season, it is Kennedy who is having the last laugh—proving that the last two seasons, the Yankees made a mistake by shipping him off instead of Hughes or Chamberlain.

In 2010,Kennedy went 9-10 with a 3.80 ERA in 194.0 innings. It was in 2011 that Kennedy really broke through. Kennedy went 21-4 with a 2.88 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 198 strikeouts in 222.0 innings.

He finished fourth in the Cy Young voting. Kennedy, who led the National League in wins, helped guide the Diamondbacks to a division title.

Meanwhile Joba cannot stay on the field. After a lackluster 2009 in which the Yankees tried to convert him to a starting pitcher, Chamberlain went back to the bullpen in 2010 and struggled mightily. His ERA was 4.40 in 71.2 innings.

Then last summer, Chamberlain had to undergo Tommy John surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right elbow. In March of this year, Joba severely injured his right leg while bouncing on a trampoline with his son. It is unclear when he will return to the field.

As for Hughes, it has been all downhill since 2010. That year, Hughes won 18 games for the Yankees, made the All-Star team, and seemed well on his way to becoming the dominant starter the Yankees thought he would be.

But 2011 was a down year for Hughes. He spent much of the season on the disabled list with arm fatigue and shoulder inflammation. He ended up throwing only 74.2 innings with a 5.79 ERA.

This year, Hughes just can't get anybody out. His velocity is still down, batters are hitting .329 against him and his ERA is an astronomical 7.88.

Some suggested at the time of the trade that Kennedy might have needed to get out of New York to thrive. He would not be the first pitcher unable to find success wearing the pinstripes.

As he looks poised for another strong year in 2012 (3-0 with a 3.86 ERA ), Kennedy is all smiles, thinking back to when the Yankees were so eager to ship him out of town. He will also be smiling when he gets a robust contract at the end of this season. 

Hindsight is 20/20, and while all three pitchers are still in their twenties, it looks like Ian Kennedy got the last laugh.


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