The Oakland A's announced on Monday that they had come to terms with left-hander Joe Kennedy on a one-year, $2.8 million contract. The contract represents a $400,000 raise for Kennedy, who was eligible for arbitration. He is eligible for free agency at the end of the season.
Kennedy was acquired by Oakland at the All-Star Break in 2005 along with Jay Witasick from the Colorado Rockies. He arrived in Oakland having made most of his career appearances as a starting pitcher. Kennedy made 19 appearances for Oakland in 2005, eight as a starter and 11 in relief.
In 2006, however, Kennedy was asked to move from the starting rotation into a full-time role as the A's primary left-handed reliever. He appeared in only 39 games for the A's as a reliever, as he missed more than six weeks with a sore throwing arm. He was effective when he was healthy, however, posting a 2.31 ERA, good for lowest in the A's bullpen.
Despite his good overall numbers, Kennedy didn't really fill the A's need for a left-handed specialist in their bullpen. He was not especially effective against left-handed hitters last season. He allowed lefties to hit a robust .326 against him while holding right-handed hitters to a .220 batting average. The A's signed veteran Alan Embree this off-season to fill the left-handed reliever specialist job.
With Embree on-board, Kennedy enters spring training as the pre-season favorite to become the A's fifth starter. He has seen some success during his career as a starting pitcher. In 2002, he threw 196.2 innings for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays while posting a 4.53 ERA. In 2004, Kennedy posted a 3.66 ERA in 27 starts for the Colorado Rockies. From 2002-2005, Kennedy threw an average of 161 innings.
Kennedy will compete with Brad Halsey, Kirk Saarloos, Jason Windsor, Shane Komine, Dan Meyer and Derek Thompson for the A's fifth starter spot this spring.
With Kennedy signed, the A's now have six players who remain arbitration-eligible: Milton Bradley, Saarloos, Marco Scutaro, Justin Duchscherer, Bobby Kielty and Hiram Bocachica. The A's and the six players will exchange salary figures on Tuesday. Oakland has already avoided arbitration with Antonio Perez and Adam Melhuse. The A's had the most arbitration-eligible players of any team in baseball.