The Kansas City Royals just gave Ian Kennedy 70 million dollars.
The Kansas City Royals and Ian Kennedy have agreed on a 5 year contract worth 70 million dollars, according to Jon Heyman.
Even though rumors had been circulating suggesting the two sides were engaged in talks, this signing is still surprising. Had Alex Gordon not resigned for 71 million this off-season, this would have been the most expensive contract in Royals history. It seemed as if the team was truly limited financially after struggling to come to terms with Alex Gordon, so I certainly didn’t expect this kind of long-term commitment to a pretty inconsistent pitcher.
Kennedy is coming off one heck of a roller coaster season with the Padres. His first half must have been a Jeremy Guthrie impression because he was absolutely terrible. However, the turnaround in the second half was quite impressive. Even with the strong second half, Kennedy was valued at a dismal.8 fWAR for the season. Here are just a few of the key stats below:
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Notice the 4.11 xFIP from the first half. this stat is a version of FIP that attempts to average out HR/FB ratios by replacing the actual number of homers allowed with a league average ratio. Kennedy is definitely a fly ball pitcher which does perhaps make him more susceptible to the long ball. His career HR/FB ratio is just 10.7% but in 2015 that number was 17.2%, a significant increase that undoubtedly led to the poor production in the first half. This statistic is pointing to the fact that had Kennedy not given up an uncharacteristic amount of home runs, his ERA would be right in line with his career average.
The choice becomes believe the increase in home runs was just an anomaly, or believe rather that it represents regression, or simply a stretch of terrible pitching. Either way, Ian Kennedy has got to prevent the long-ball or this contract could be a disaster. Petco park, where Kennedy spent the last several season, isn’t exactly a hitter friendly park so I don’t really expect Kauffman Stadium to be too much of a factor.
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We do know that Kennedy is very capable of being a good pitcher. In 2011 with the Diamondbacks, Kennedy posted a 2.88 ERA, 3.22 FIP, 3.50 xFIP, and was worth 4.8 fWAR. More recently, Kennedy posted a 3.63 ERA, 3.21 FIP, 3.44 xFIP, and was worth 3.5 fWAR for the Padres in 2014. If Kansas City can get even 2 or 3 years of production close to that of 2011 and 2014, the contract will probably be worth it. But if this cannot be achieved, the Kansas City Royals made a huge mistake that may have tied their hands financially, costing them the ability to retain the “core players” that we hope stick around.
Dayton Moore has has been reluctant to hand out long term contracts, so his decision to give one to Kennedy is bizarre. But Moore has earned the benefit of the doubt. While I do expect this contract to be a huge overpay, I also expect Ian Kennedy to provide at the very least, some valuable innings for a rotation in desperate need of them.