The 2015 World Series Champion Kansas City Royals have bolstered their rotation by signing veteran right-handed pitcher Ian Kennedy to a five-year, $70 million deal, as MLB Network’s Jon Heyman first reported.
Kennedy will have a choice to opt-out of the deal after the second year, according to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN. Therefore, if Kennedy enjoys two solid years of production in the Royals’ rotation, he could hit the open market once again before his 34th birthday.
Also, the Royals will have to surrender their first-round draft pick in order to sign Kennedy. He declined a qualifying offer from the San Diego Padres this offseason, thus, any team that signs him is required to forfeit their pick.
In the 31-year-old Kennedy, the Royals acquire a solid and durable starter who’s coming off a down year for the Padres in 2015. Through 30 starts, Kennedy went 9-15 with a 4.28 ERA in 168-and-one-third innings. Perhaps the most alarming statistic on Kennedy was the fact that he allowed 31 HR to opposing batters last season (1.7 HR/9).
However, as MLB Trade Rumors noted, most of the damage occurred prior to the All-Star Break as Kennedy surrendered 20 HR before the break just 11 HR after it. After a dreadful start to 2015 that saw Kennedy record a dreadful 7.15 ERA through his first eight starts, Kennedy pitched to a 3.41 ERA from June 1 onward, per MLB Trade Rumors.
Considering most of Kennedy’s outings came in the notoriously pitcher-friendly Petco Park in San Diego, it’s surprising for Kennedy to have been that homer-prone. Kennedy is just one-year removed from a productive 2014 campaign in which he went 13-13 with a 3.63 ERA through 33 starts and 201 innings pitched
In early September last year, Kennedy listed all the factors that will go into his free agency decision this offseason to the San Diego Union-Tribune, heavily citing a chance to win.
“There’s a lot of factors. There’s family. One of the big things is, I want to win. And that’s what got us all excited about this year, thinking we were going to have a chance to win. A lot of us, like myself, early on didn’t produce. But for the most part, what we play for is a championship, at least having a chance to go to the playoffs.”
Joining the defending champion Royals will certainly improve Kennedy’s chances at winning another World Series ring. He appeared in one game for the eventual 2009 World Series Champion New York Yankees in a season that was shortened due to an aneurysm under his right biceps, per ESPN.
Most of Kennedy’s success has come in the National League, including his breakout season in 2011 that saw him finish 21-4 with a 2.88 ERA in 33 starts and 222 innings. But, as noted by Mike Baumann on Twitter, Kennedy has a career 5.47 ERA against American League teams. Now that he’s going back to the American League on a full-time basis, that’ll be something the Royals will likely monitor during the season(s).
Kennedy joins a rotation that already features Yordano Ventura, Edinson Volquez, Danny Duffy, Chris Young and Kris Medlen. Lefty Jason Vargas is recovering from Tommy John surgery and could be a factor in late 2016. But while all of those pitchers have been successful, they do carry some uncertainty.
Per MLB Trade Rumors, Ventura has not topped 183 innings in a single season and Duffy has never topped 155-and-one-third innings. Due to injury, Young hasn’t topped 165 innings since 2007 and Medlen’s entering his second year since Tommy John surgery.
With Kennedy now a Royal, he should add some stability to an already World Series caliber rotation.
[Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images]