KC Royals Should Have Signed Scott Kazmir Instead Of Ian Kennedy
The KC Royals would have been better off signing former Astros starter Scott Kazmir rather than former Padres hurler Ian Kennedy.
Scott Kazmir agreed to a free-agent deal with the Dodgers December 30, even though the Kansas City Royals had expressed strong interest in his services. On January 6, the KC Royals cut a deal with outfielder Alex Gordon for four-years, and $70 million. Ten days later, general manager Dayton Moore finally added the rotation piece he had been seeking all winter by landing Ian Kennedy with a five-year, $70 million offer.
I believe the KC Royals would have been better off if they could have signed Kazmir and Gordon over Kennedy and Gordon.
I most certainly understand that the sequence of events could have tied Dayton Moore’s hands. Committing $48 million to Scott Kazmir before you know Alex Gordon’s market would have risked losing Kansas City’s longtime left fielder. I understand Moore’s reluctance to risk leaving himself short of funds if Gordon’s market went into the $90 to $100 million range as many analysts expected.
But, looking at the question in the abstract, I believe the KC Royals would have fielded a stronger rotation in 2016 with Scott Kazmir in place of Ian Kennedy.
Steamer agrees: [table id=46 /]
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Not only does the soon to be 32-year-old Kazmir project to perform better than Ian Kennedy next season, he signed for more favorable terms than Ian Kennedy. Of course, the 31-year-old Kazmir missed a season with injury troubles before returning with the Indians in 2013. Thus you have to figure that Kazmir poses more health risk. But, on the other hand, Kazmir would give the rotation another lefty besides Danny Duffy—who could end up in the pen.
The big advantage of Kazmir’s contract is $22 million less risk, though he did get an opt-out clause after the first season rather than at two-years as with the Kennedy deal. Two extra years and $22 million created significantly more risk of a bad contract—which is a real possibility when dealing with a pitcher in his early 30’s.
Look at the following tables using a standard .5 WAR decline per season for an early 30’s pitcher and 5% $/WAR market value to see the difference between the deals:
Scott Kazmir Projected Value on 3-year, $48 million deal [table id=47 /]
Ian Kennedy Projected Value on 5-year, $70 million deal [table id=48 /]
The Dodgers get around $6 million in excess value, while the KC Royals appear to have given Kennedy a massive overpay using these numbers.
Perhaps the KC Royals really wanted to lock in a mid-rotation starter for the next two seasons while they still have Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, Wade Davis, Danny Duffy, and Jarrod Dyson under team control. Or they very much value Kennedy’s track record as an inning-eater.
Other possibilities why the Kansas City Royals personnel men could actually favor Kennedy over Kazmir is that they might believe Dave Eiland can help Kennedy unlock some unrealized upside, or they see Kennedy as a known quantity in terms of team chemistry since Eiland knows him from their days with the Yankees.
I have to think the KC Royals analytics staff must have a significantly more positive projection for Kennedy than Steamer. Project Kennedy as a 2.5 fWAR pitcher, and he’s worth $54.8 million over five years. If he’s a 3.0 fWAR pitcher in 2016, then Kennedy projects to be worth $86.25 million over the contract term.
However, after years of consistent performance, Ian Kennedy has been little more than a replacement-level pitcher two out of the last three seasons. The KC Royals apparently dismiss those seasons as anomalies. But, what if they’re not? What if Kennedy is suddenly an inconsistent performer?
Next: Owner David Glass Keeps His Word By Signing Ian Kennedy
Maybe the KC Royals made a similar offer to Kazmir, but he really preferred to play in Los Angeles over Kansas City. But if Kazmir could have been persuaded to play for the defending World Champions for the same three-year, $48 million he took from the Dodgers, he would have been a better value than Ian Kennedy.