According to Jon Heyman of MLB Network, the Kansas City Royals and 31-year-old righty Ian Kennedy have agreed to terms on a five-year contract worth 70 million dollars in guaranteed value.
Kennedy is coming off a down season in which he pitched to an ERA of 4.28 and a FIP of 4.51 over 168.1 innings for the Padres, the second-highest marks of his career in both categories. Kennedy’s innings totals were also the lowest of his career since becoming a full-time starter in 2010 with Arizona.
Fortunately for Royals fans, there are multiple reasons why this deal makes sense. First would be the relative costliness of pitchers in this season’s free-agent market. Both Jeff Samardzija and Mike Leake received five-year deals for more money than Kennedy, but if Kennedy could progress even halfway back to the pitcher he was in 2014 he might be better than both of them over the next couple years.
Second would be Kennedy’s relative durability over the course of his career. After three partial seasons with the Yankees from 2007-09 (19.0, 39.2, 1.0 innings each) he was traded to Arizona as part of the three-team Max Scherzer trade, where he was immediately inserted into the starting rotation. Since 2010, Kennedy has made 30 or more starts in every season, and topped 180 innings in five of those six (2015 being the exception).
Lastly, the peripheral statistics behind ERA and FIP show that Kennedy was on the receiving end of some bad luck in 2015. His BABIP against was .301, ten points above his career average and five points above league average. Additionally, Kennedy suffered an impossibly high HR/FB rate at 17.2%, 6.5% above his career average and 5.8% above league average. Lastly, Kennedy’s K/9 was the highest of his career and his BB/9 was its lowest since 2012 with the Diamondbacks.