5. Kansas City Royals Make Mediocre Addition
Even coming off of back-to-back World Series appearances, and a 2015 victory, the Royals still had a lot of work to do going into this offseason. Arguably the heart and soul of their team, Alex Gordon, was a free agent after opting out of the final year of his contract. Add to that the question marks associated with their pitching staff and the departures of both Ben Zobrist and Johnny Cueto, and the Royals were set for a tough offseason.
While the team did end up re-signing Alex Gordon, and for a pretty fair price, the team has had a tougher time answering some of the other question marks facing their offseason. Ben Zobrist and Johnny Cueto are both gone, and the Royals didn’t get much in their place. To replace Cueto, the only significant addition made by the Royals to their pitching staff this offseason was signing right-hander Ian Kennedy.
Now personally, I have nothing against Ian Kennedy. As a San Diego Padres fan, I have gotten to watch him pitch for the better part of the last four seasons. While falling just short of being excellent in his time in San Diego, Kennedy was always a reliable arm that could stay healthy for most of the season. A prototypical “innings eater” at worst.
For San Diego, Kennedy was commendable in this role. In 2015, he was the fourth-best pitcher on the team, behind Tyson Ross, James Shields, and Andrew Cashner, and therefore didn’t need to be THE guy for the Padres. In Kansas City, that is not quite the case. Kennedy will be joining a pitching staff that has always come with question marks, and is led by the somewhat questionable duo of Edinson Volquez and Yordano Ventura. Neither guy comes with much consistent track record, and thus Kennedy will be counted upon even more than he was in San Diego.
Despite coming off a largely mediocre year in which he finished with an ERA over 4.00, and having draft-pick compensation attached to signing him, Kennedy still received five years and $70 million from the Royals. Based on his 2015 performance, and the draft pick the Royals lost for signing him, that contract seems like a bit of a stretch. However, the most important consideration with his contract is the opt-out clause following the 2017 season. Over the next two seasons Kennedy is set to make only $21 million. If he opts-out, he will leave almost $50 million on the table with the Royals (around $16 million per year).
At this point, it seems like the Royals are counting on Kennedy performing well and opting out of his deal before they have to pay him a higher salary. However, there is a great deal of risk in this strategy if he doesn’t opt-out. If Kennedy does not rebound well from last season’s regression and ends up staying through the remainder of his contract, the Royals could be in a great deal of trouble over the next several seasons. For a small market club like the Royals, every dollar counts, and the Kennedy deal could very well hamper their ability to re-sign their own homegrown talent. Kennedy is a decent pitcher, but one that comes with a great deal of risk based on his contract.