Pittsburgh Pirates trade rumors: Ian Kennedy versus A.J. Burnett

Rumors are swirling of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ interest in both Ian Kennedy of the San Diego Padres and A.J. Burnett of the Philadelphia Phillies.

While Burnett has a history with the Pirates, he may not be the best fit for them. Despite his former teammates pushing for the 37-year-old veteran’s return, how much can Burnett help his former team in the playoffs?

Last season he was rocked in Game 1 of the NLDS against the St. Louis Cardinals, and the Pirates passed Burnett up for a rookie in Game 5. If Pittsburgh couldn’t trust him last year in the playoffs, what would make this year any different?

Burnett wouldn’t be a cancer in the locker room like some people think. In fact, he would likely be an asset in that department. However, will he really make the team better?

Burnett’s velocity is down this season, along with his strikeouts. He leads the majors with 62 walks. Burnett has a 3.68 ERA but it has varied month to month. In April, he had a stellar 2.15 ERA, but it inflated 5.40 in May and 4.10 in June. July was a better month for the right-hander as he posted a 3.74 ERA.

His last outing was a gem despite sitting through a 59-minute rain delay. Burnett tossed eight scoreless innings on Wednesday and was left with a no-decision for the Phillies.

Another issue with Burnett is his contract. Philadelphia signed him to a one-year $16 million contract over the winter. The option value is $8.5M at 24 starts, $10M at 27, $11.75M at 30 and maximum of $12.75M at 32 starts.

He can earn an additional $1.75 million annually in performance bonuses: $500,000 each for 24 and 27 starts, and $750,000 for 30.

That kind of money would be ridiculous for Pittsburgh to spend on a 38-year-old pitcher. The only way this would be a good deal is if Philadelphia pays a hefty portion of his contract.

On the other hand, Kennedy would make more sense for the Pirates to go after.

According to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, the Pirates and Royals each had scouts on hand to watch Padres right-hander Ian Kennedy on Friday.

The 29-year-old boosts a 3.66 ERA and 3.10 FIP in over 135 innings this year. He has issued 42 walks, significantly less than Burnett. Fans can argue that Kennedy pitches at Petco Park, a pitcher’s stadium, but he has a 3.06 ERA away from Petco.

[Pittsburgh Pirates: Antonio Bastardo a potential trade target]

Strikeouts aren’t a category the Pirates dominate in this season. The right-hander has struck out 143 this year, which is more than Burnett.

Despite an awful month of June, Kennedy has had a solid season. He has allowed just six runs in 26 innings and fanned 26 in July.

Not only is Kennedy younger, but he still has one more year of arbitration. The Friars currently pay him $6.1 million, which has to be tempting for the Pirates’ management.

With the surplus of talent in the minor leagues, Pittsburgh may have what it takes to land a top of the rotation pitcher like Kennedy.

If Pittsburgh decides to upgrade the starting rotation, Kennedy would be the better candidate of the two.

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