Did the Yankees Give Up on Ian Kennedy To Soon?

The Yankees drafted Ian Kennedy in the first round of the 2006 draft and by the end of the 2007 season he not only pitching in the majors, but over three starts he was pitching brilliantly.

He pitched so well in fact that it earned him a spot in the 2008 rotation coming out of spring training. Kennedy struggled in the big leagues that year though and was sent back down to the minors. The Yankees still had high hopes for him though and called him back up in August, but after just two bad innings and a few of the wrong things said to the press after the game it seemed like the Yankees had all but given up on him.

I felt like I made some good pitches,” he said. “I’m not too upset about it. What was it, a bunch of singles and three doubles? I’m just not real upset about it. I’m just going to move on and I’ve already done that.”

Tyler Kepner of the NY Times recently spoke with Kennedy about that night:

Kennedy talked about that night on Sunday, after his two-inning start for the Arizona Diamondbacks at Tucson Electric Park. Without being asked, Kennedy brought up the game in talking about that lost season, when he could not hold his spot in the Yankees’ rotation.

Early in the season, Kennedy explained, he had tried to do too much, and dwelled too long on bad outings, letting one bleed into the next. Before the Angels game, he had pitched very well in Class AAA. He wanted to forget the bad outing as soon as possible, and as he stewed in the clubhouse for hours, he vowed to do that.

“I sat there for a long time thinking, ‘I’m not going to let this bring me down,’ ” Kennedy said. “I was so upset. I don’t like coming out in the second inning.”

But his words that night sounded terrible. At best, Kennedy was refusing to be accountable for a bad performance. At worst, he was projecting an attitude that he did not care that he had lost. Teammates, especially Mike Mussina, picked up on it.

“How do you think you threw?” Mussina asked Kennedy, after hearing the interview. Kennedy replied that he had thrown horribly, and that satisfied Mussina, who told him he wanted to make sure Kennedy’s version of reality matched everybody else’s.

“He was looking out for me,” said Kennedy, who counts Mussina as a mentor.

Maybe I’m wrong and the Yankees didn’t give up on him that day, but it sure feels like it now. Otherwise I’m left wondering if they would have included him, as he was still considered, at least by those outside of the organization, as a top prospect, in a deal with another top prospect, Austin Jackson, and a major league lefty reliever in the same trade.

They would have never included Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes in a deal with some of their other top talents. Kennedy slipped behind those two as far as production had gone, but it wasn’t long ago that he was at or above their level in terms of potential. They didn’t give him a chance coming out of spring training and then he had the aneurysm early last season which might be the only reason Hughes is ahead of him in terms of development.

Don’t get me wrong, it was a good move to bring Curtis Granderson to the Bronx, but I can’t help but thinking that if Ian Kennedy pitches well out in Arizona the Yankees are going to regret including so much talent in one deal.

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15 Responses to Did the Yankees Give Up on Ian Kennedy To Soon?

  1. iYankees says:

    Nice piece, Rob. In terms of potential, I don't think IPK was ever really seen as a guy with as much potential or more than Chamberlain or Hughes, but he definitely had the ability to round out a Major League rotation. I would have liked to see them keep him – I do think he will pitch well in Arizona – but with Hughes and Joba around, it probably would have been tough for IPK to crack the rotation, long-term. In that sense, the trade works. Will they miss him if he pitches well in Arizona? Maybe. He'll be in the NL and will likely benefit from that style of play. Would he have done that in NY? Maybe not. It's a tough call. But, unless Granderson flops, I don't think it will be a big loss.

  2. Rob Abruzzese says:

    I think you make some good points. What I meant though was that they didn't just give up on him on the field, it seems like they gave up on him off the field too. Why avoid including him in a deal for Johan Santana only to include him in a trade along with one of your other top prospects as well? I think getting Granderson was important and there wasn't exactly a role for Kennedy this season, but part of me feels like if they wanted to trade him, he should have been the center piece of a deal. Instead it felt as if he were almost a throw-in. Maybe I'm reading it all wrong though.

  3. Mike S. says:

    Depends what Granderson does. You have to give to get.

  4. Jeffrey says:

    I am sure that they would have liked to have keep him around, but they needed to give up a major league ready arm to get Granderson. Realistically, he would have opened at AAA and I suppose they felt that he wouldn't be that big of an upgrade over Aceves, Guadin or Mitre. As they once said on Baseball Prospectus, you have to know which of your prospects you are willing to include in the right trade and Kennedy's upside isn't high enough to make him untouchable.

    If I have a problem it was in drafting him in the first place. The fans were screaming for Bard and Oppenheimer insisted on taking a guy from his alma mater (USC), saying his stuff was just fine. Well, he ended up being a soft tosser and Bard is hitting 100 in the Red Sox pen. Luckily, the Yanks picked Joba with their next selection.

  5. smurfy says:

    Yeah, it seems Ian was given up on. Didn't know he was drafted before Joba. That soft tosser seemed like he could be a tricky fooler, and that's fun to watch.

  6. Bob says:

    Well well well. It is now August 2011 and Ian is 15-3. That's right – 15 – 3. Obviously, Cashman blew this one big time once again! The sooner the Yanks dump Cashman, the sooner the Yanks can grow some talent of their own without giving up on them after one inning! I am disgusted!

    • And Granderson is an MVP candidate. You have to give something to get something. My feelings are mostly the same, but this is not a trade that backfired on the Yankees.

    • Mike Sommer says:

      …and Granderson is on target for 46 HR, 145 R, 130 RBI and 30 SB….

    • swedski says:

      as the others said granderson is MVP material right now, and Nove oh Nova is pitching lights out in the AL EAST not the NL West!. Nobody has a crystal ball but the trade for Grandy is looking pretty good right now.

  7. Susan says:

    I'm sure he wouldn't be anywhere close to 15-3 with us so I'd say we got the best of this deal with Grandy. I had no idea though that Ian was doing so well. I am happy for him.

  8. Yankzallday says:

    He's pitching in the NL West…not the AL East. We got the better deal with Grandy as a hitter, base stealer and out fielder.

  9. Will says:

    With the Yanks horrid player development, no way Kennedy develops into the starter he is had the Yanks not traded him. He should be counting his blessings that they shipped him and he may actually have a shot at a productive career. In addition, Yanks should use THAT as the model for what to do with their talented youth, not the debacle they have made of Hughes and Joba. As we are seeing with the 'rules' put in place which somehow the Yanks believe were a development plan, no chance that Kennedy would be doing what he is. I just hope that the Yanks don't hold onto Banuelos, Betances and even Montero too long so they end up with the zero trade value that Hughes and Joba have now.

    • Mike Sommer says:

      Since coming off the DL, Hughes is 4-3, 3.70. He's still just 25 years old. Zero trade value? Really?

  10. swedski says:

    Yeah what is that BS Hughes looks good Nova looks great. What the Yanks need to do is find a way to win NOW and bring up guys. If they had kept Kennedy (no dis on him) and he had a 50 50 season everyone would be moaning about winning NOW! If Kennedy has a good season this year and AZ has an off season next year and so does Kennedy the NY media won't be gunning for someones head. We fans also have come to expect Win now and Cashman has a tough job probably him and Epstein have the toughest GM jos in baseball with both teams having the mantra 'win now, but be prepared for the future as well' Tough gig.