It's rare in sports that a trade works out for all teams involved. Yet that seems to be the case when it comes to the three-team deal made between the Yankees, Tigers and Diamondbacks in December 2009, which put outfielder Curtis Granderson in pinstripes and struggling prospect Ian Kennedy in Arizona.
But while all three teams can look back and safely say they improved as a result of the deal, the Diamondbacks are the ones who truly struck gold.
At the time of the megadeal, which was headlined by Granderson's move to the Bronx, the Yankees were defending World Series champions and the Tigers had just finished in second place in the AL Central (one game behind the Minnesota Twins). The D-Backs, meanwhile, were coming off a last-place finish in the NL West, at 22 games below .500.
Aside from Dan Haren, who led the D-Backs in wins (14) and ERA (3.14) in 2009, no starter had a winning record or boasted an ERA below 4.12. Essentially, they were a poor team that was hampered even more by a middle-of-the-pack starting rotation.
Less than two years later, all three teams comfortably lead their division — including the once-dismal D-Backs. And the main reason for Arizona's turnaround has been the Cy Young-caliber season put up by Kennedy, who twirled eight scoreless innings as part of a one-hit, 12-strikeout perfomance against the Pirates on Monday.
Kennedy was the NL's first pitcher to 20 wins with Monday's W, and his 20-4 record — to go along with a 2.88 ERA — is good enough for the best win percentage in the majors (83.3 percent). His 216 innings were fifth-most in the National League entering Wednesday, as was his 1.08 WHIP. His 23 quality starts trail only Matt Cain, Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Clayton Kershaw when it comes to tops in the NL.
And while Kennedy will likely fall short when it comes to the NL Cy Young because of Kershaw, and perhaps even Halladay, there's no denying his presence has not only stabilized the D-Backs rotation, but it's made it quite respectable in comparison to the others across baseball.
Kennedy's WPA (win probability added), which is a system that essentially measures a pitcher's ability to help his team win, stands at 5.23. That's the best such mark in the majors — even higher than Justin Verlander's 5.16.
Granderson has had a terrific season for the Yankees in his own right, posting career highs in home runs, RBIs, runs and walks — by a large margin. His on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS should all represent career highs at season's end, as well, while his batting average has improved drastically. So, certainly the Yankees didn't end up with some slouch, nor were they expecting to.
But the Yanks did lead the majors in nearly every major offensive statistical category prior to Granderson's arrival. So while he may have been the cornerstone of the Yankees offense this season, there's a far greater chance New York would have continued to succeed offensively had the trade not transpired than the D-Backs suddenly seeing such rapid improvement to their rotation.
This is especially true when you consider the Diamondbacks, as part of the deal, also wound up with Edwin Jackson, who they later dealt to the White Sox in exchange for Daniel Hudson and minor leaguer David Holmberg.
Jackson has since moved on to St. Louis, while Hudson has helped round out a solid top three alongside Kennedy and Joe Saunders, whom the team netted in the Dan Haren deal.
Hudson was 7-1 with a 1.69 ERA and 0.84 WHIP in 11 starts after arriving in Arizona last season, and has gone a respectable 16-11 with a 3.43 ERA in 32 starts this season.
D-Backs starters are now second to the Phillies in the NL in innings pitched and third in the league in WPA. More importantly, though, they pass the eyeball test, as they're now much more formidable top to bottom than they once were — which can be attributed mostly to the arrival of Kennedy and Hudson.
The Yankees could very well ride their offense, anchored by Granderson, to the top of the heap in the American League this year. But outside of CC Sabathia, who still has issues against the Red Sox, and surprising rookie Ivan Nova, there's a lot of question marks in their rotation — not to mention a lot of years on this planet (Bartolo Colon is 38, Freddy Garcia is 35 and A.J. Burnett is 34). A young, quality arm like Kennedy may be more valuable to them now than ever.
When you also consider the Yankees likely could have dealt the once highly touted Phil Hughes rather than Kennedy, it makes matters a bit more discouraging for the Bronx Bombers going forward.
So, sure, the Yankees will probably tell you they're pleased with the outcome. And the Tigers, who received a package of Austin Jackson, Max Scherzer, Daniel Schlereth and Phil Coke, probably don't have too many problems with the way things have turned out, either.
But no team has been as positively impacted from that 2009 deal as the D-Backs, and no player has had the impact that Ian Kennedy has. Granderson may win the AL MVP and Kennedy will likely lose out on the NL Cy Young, but the D-Backs ace is the best player to change uniforms, hands down.
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