Doubt this really came as a surprise to anyone: from being our de facto #1 at the beginning of the season, Kennedy's stock has gone only one way: down. Indeed, his Opening Day appearance, seven innings of two-run ball against the Cardinals, was his best of the year by Game Score, rating a 66. The twenty starts which followed ranged from the adequate to among the very worst in team history, when he faced those same Cardinals in St. Louis and got lit up for ten earned runs in four innings. That was the start of his current ten-game winless streak, and with each game, it seemed the door for his departure opened wider.
His struggles early in starts were a particular issue. In 21 first innings, he allowed 19 earned runs, an 8.14 ERA. He wasn't brilliant there after, but 53 earned runs in 103 innings is still a rather better 4.63 ERA: those opening runs immediately put a damper on the team, knowing they would have to pull out another come from behind victory. And they usually didn't, going 7-14 in his appearances, with Kennedy only picking up three wins in 21 attempts. It would be an exaggeration to blame Kennedy's struggles for the recent woes of the team. However, it's certainly a significant factor, considering they were 18-15 in his starts last season.
The trade completes a remarkable fall from grace for Kennedy who, just two seasons ago, went 21-4 with a 2.88 ERA and finished fourth in the Cy Young voting that season. There were certainly expectations that he would regress from there, and that duly happened in 2012: his ERA was over four, though he still posted a decent 15-12 record. But the lengthy series of mediocre starts this year, and the rise of alternatives for the rotation such as Patrick Corbin and Randall Delgado, rendered Kennedy surplus to requirements, especially with a ballooning cost. The main question was what the team might be able to get for him.
The answer is, apparently, two relievers and a draft pick. It's striking that, in the poll on the trade, 55% of voters so far approve of this return: that illustrates just how far Kennedy's stock has fallen. Joe Thatcher gives the team another left-handed option out of the bullpen, which will hopefully make the task of imbibing small quantities of liquid slightly less problematic, as we move forward. He was second-year arbitration eligible thus year, and earned a modest $1.35 million. He'll have his third-year next season, before becoming a free-agent for the 2015 campaign. He has actually faced more RHB than LHB in his career, but has an OPS that's 130 points better versus the latter.
No-one really seems to know too much about Matt Stites, but the general consensus appears to be that he's a fairly decent prospect, and it's hard to argue with a 2012 K:BB ratio of 60:3. All told in his minor-league career, the ratio is 150:19 in 135.1 innings, so it seems he's a strike thrower, which fits in well with the Towers/Gibson philosophy. He only turned 23 in May, and is currently in Double-A: I imagine he'll probably compete for a spot in the bullpen next spring. There's also the draft pick: stop me if I'm wrong, but I think this is the first time we've ever traded for one of those, it being something only recently permitted.
All told, this is more or less what was expected. It was hard to see us getting much for Kennedy, and a pair of relievers (one to help us now, one in the future) plus a draft pick seems like a pretty decent return for a pitcher who has been close to (0.7 fWAR) or below (-1.5 bWAR) replacement level this season. Kennedy probably isn't as bad as his 2013 numbers would indicate, but the team has cheaper, and likely better, options available, so it makes sense to use them.