Acquiring Johnny Cueto was the Royals’ biggest move last season, as helped push the team back to the World Series and then dominated in his lone start once there, pitching a one-run complete game against the Mets in Game 2. Having served his purpose, Cueto departed for the San Francisco Giants once he hit free agency, and the Royals were left with a hole to fill in their rotation. At first it seemed as if the Royals were going to let 36-year-old Chris Young and the oft-injured Kris Medlen fill the last two spots in the rotation, but the team elected to instead bring in former San Diego Padres starter Ian Kennedy on a five-year deal.
Kennedy, while not nearly as talented as Cueto, does have the capability to be a workhorse at the back of the rotation and fortifies the Royals pitching staff for 2016. Although Kennedy did struggle last year, the 31-year-old did post a 3.63 ERA as recently as 2014, and could thrive with baseball’s best defense behind him. With Yovani Gallardo still unsigned it is somewhat surprising that the Royals didn’t attempt to sign him first as Gallardo has had more success in his career. The Royals may have been uncomfortable going into the waters Gallardo was asking money-wise. There are also concerns about Gallardo’s declining velocity and strikeout rate. The Royals theoretically have one more spot in the rotation left if they aren’t confident in Young and Medlen holding up, but signing another free agent doesn’t seem likely, as their number-two prospect and top pitching prospect Kyle Zimmer posted a 2.18 ERA at Double-A in 2015. It’s conceivable that Zimmer could get a look for the last rotation spot.