At the end of the season, Kansas City Royals starter Ian Kennedy will have two choices. His contract allows him the choice of opting for free agency or to stay with the team. The notion that Kennedy will opt for free agency is not as far-fetched as some might think.
When the Kansas City Royals signed Ian Kennedy to a 5yr/$70 million contract last year it definitely raised some eyebrows. Besides the amount of money, the more interesting part of the contract is Kennedy’s ability to opt for free agency after two years.
Ian Kennedy’s Two Years:
In Kennedy’s first year with the Kansas City Royals he was plagued by the long ball, giving up 33 home-runs, but his earned-run-average (ERA) of 3.68 over 33 starts was best of any starter. He also had a team best 195.2 innings pitched, averaging nearly 6 innings per start, and a 1.22 WHIP. In a year with plenty of disappointment, Kennedy was a bright spot for the team.
Kennedy’s second year appears to be significantly worse. However, when looking further, the numbers seem to tell a different story about how productive he has been. To start the year Kennedy had a very impressive 2.30 ERA and a 0.996 WHIP. Over his 31.1 innings pitched, only Jason Vargas had a better ERA and WHIP.
Unfortunately, Kennedy suffered a hamstring injury during his May 4th start. After missing almost three weeks he seemed to be a shell of himself. He would struggle through his next few starts. Struggle might be a kind way of explaining his performances because they were pretty bad. From May 21st-June 10th he posted a 0-3 record with a 9.43 ERA and a 1.667 WHIP. As Denny Matthews would say, “Not good.”
However, from June 16th to his most recent start he has posted a 4-1 record with a 3.71 ERA and a 1.098 WHIP. Without his injury month, Kennedy has an ERA of 3.58 and a 1.128 WHIP; while pitching just about 6 innings per start.
When you look at it, while taking into consideration his hamstring injured month, Kennedy has had a much better year than his year long statistics show.
So Why Opt For Free Agency?
By opting for free agency, Kennedy would be leaving a guaranteed $49M behind. When this topic is brought up the first response is always “no way he leaves.” However, based off his last two seasons Kennedy has a case at making more money, over a longer period of time, than what his current contract is with the Royals outlines.
By staying with the Royals, Kennedy would essentially be agreeing to a 3yrs/$49M contract. He would be making $16M in 2018 and $16.5M in 2019 and 2020, making him a free agent in 2021. By that time, Kennedy will be 36 years old.
Now, if Kennedy decides to opt for free agency his obvious goal is to get a contract that is longer than three years and more money than $49M. With the current 2018 starting pitcher market, Kennedy might stand a chance of achieving that goal.
When you look at the market for pitchers next year, it is very weak. Kennedy, albeit 33-years old, could very well be the fourth best pitcher on the market come this off-season.
As every market is, the top tier pitcher will get the top tier money. Pitchers like Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta, and potentially Lance Lynn will be the headline pitchers on the market. They will help set the market for every other pitcher. If they set the market high, which is very likely, Kennedy could easily get more than $49M.
It is a gamble, but with his agent Scott Boras in his corner, it might be a gamble he is willing to take. If the Kansas City Royals continue the look of a team that will be rebuilding for the remainder of his contract, Kennedy could look to sign with a team that is closer to winning a World Series.
Being 33-years old in December, if Kennedy decides to stay with the Kansas City Royals he could more than likely end his career with the team. $49M over three-years is not a bad way to end a career. However, if Kennedy gambles on himself after solid consecutive seasons, and with his agent Boras working his magic, Kennedy could reel in a longer contract with more money.