The Padres fortified their rotation with Diamondbacks righthander Ian Kennedy, all for the reasonable cost of big league matchup lefty Joe Thatcher, Double-A closer Matt Stites and a supplemental second-round pick in next year’s draft.
Update: MLB.com Padres beat reporter Corey Brock reports that Stites had emergency appendectomy surgery this week and probably will miss the rest of the season.
Arizona general manager Kevin Towers has a magic touch when it comes to acquiring relief prospects, an attribute that dates back to his days as Padres GM and is best exemplified by the November 2006 trade for Heath Bell in which Towers gave up two players, Jon Adkins and Ben Johnson, who went on to contribute nothing to the Mets.
Stites has as much upside as just about any relief prospect in the high minors, and he’s a fast-riser who pitched in the Arizona Fall League last year and jumped to Double-A this year. As to Thatcher, Towers likes him so much that he’s traded for him twice, the first time in July 2007 when he brought him to San Diego in the Scott Linebrink trade with the Brewers.
Matt Stites, rhp
Career Transactions: Selected by Padres in 17th round of 2011 draft; signed June 11, 2011
Stites generates double-plus velocity (94-98 mph) from an undersized, 5-foot-11 frame, working both sides of the plate with late life. He doubles up his fastball with an outstanding high-80s curveball that features late biting action. Stites led the Texas League with 14 saves at the time of the trade, and he ranked among the top TL relievers with a .194 opponent average, unintentional walk rate of 1.2 per nine innings and 0.87 WHIP.
Joe Thatcher, lhp
Remaining Commitment: Prorated portion of $1.35 million salary for 2013, then arbitration-eligible for 2014 season.
Only Heath Bell and Luke Gregerson have more appearances for the Padres since 2007 than Thatcher, a crossfire lefty who began his pro career in the independent Frontier League. He has held lefty batters to a batting line of .209/.269/.317 in 387 career matchups, throwing no more than a mid-80s fastball and a sweeping slider.
Ian Kennedy, rhp
Remaining Commitment: Prorated portion of $4.265 million salary for 2013, then arbitration-eligible for two more seasons, 2014 and ’15.
An extreme flyball pitcher with a diminishing strikeout rate, Kennedy ought to feel rejuvenated by the switch to Pecto Park. He’s a durable strike-thrower who will slot right in at the top of San Diego’s rotation—ahead of Eric Stults and Edinson Volquez—and best of all, he’s under club control for the next two seasons.