The Kansas City Royals announced today that Ian Kennedy is back on the DL. The news has become something normal around Kennedy the last two years.
It has quickly become a joke that is no longer funny. Ian Kennedy going to the DL after coming back and making one start should throw up quite a few red flags for the Kansas City Royals.
Since coming to Kansas City, Kennedy has allowed his reputation to follow him. No, his reputation isn’t him being a bad person or a dominant pitcher. Rather, his reputation is of a pitcher that can’t stay healthy.
After the 2016 season, the hope was he had turned the page on the injuries. He played an entire season, making 33 starts for 195.2 innings and a 3.68 ERA. His 8.5 strikeouts per nine innings was something to be excited about. Plus, signing a 5-year/$70 million contract during the offseason, this seemed like it wasn’t the worst contract.
However, since his injury free 2016 campaign, he has found himself on the DL more often than one would hope. In 2017, he ended up on the DL with a right hamstring strain. Before the injury, Kennedy had a 3.03 ERA and seemed to pick up where he left off in 2016. Unfortunately, he didn’t do any rehab start before returning and had a horrible 6.10 ERA. He later reported that the injury “took away my changeup“.
He finished the year making 30 starts over 154.0 innings and posting a 5.38 ERA.
Now, we find ourselves in a similar situation.
This year, Kennedy has been less than impressive again. Before his first stint on the DL, Kennedy had a 5.11 ERA over 91.2 innings and 17 starts. He was pulled after 5.0 innings and 74 pitches against the Seattle Mariners when he felt tightness in his left oblique. While the quick pull didn’t alter the end of the game, it required the Royals struggling bullpen to try and keep the team within striking distance. Which for the most part they did.
Kennedy came back relatively quickly, in my opinion, from his oblique strain. Especially for someone who has had a history of leg injuries. Kennedy missed one start but was activated for his July 10th start. Where, again, he was pulled early in the game. This time, after just 3.0 innings.
The Royals had been on a 10-game losing streak and were winning before Kennedy was removed. Which means, the Royals were banking on the bullpen going 6.0 innings and expected to keep the lead. While this is the normal job of any teams bullpen, we are talking about the Royals here.
But Kennedy is putting the Royals in a really hard position. To me, the Royals might have to make the “hard” decision.
No, I’m not talking about cutting Kennedy. And no, I’m not talking about trading Kennedy either. What I am talking about is shutting down Kennedy’s year. Allow him to rehab the rest of the year, rest his legs, and come back again next year to try again.
By doing this, I am in no way advocating for Hammel to find his way back into the rotation. Hammel struggled to get through 2.0 innings last night, allowing two runs in the 9th inning. However, due to the Royals seemingly getting close to promoting parts of the next wave, they could allow a future piece to get some MLB playing time.
As it stands, a few names are really the only option in my opinion. Trevor Oaks has had a small taste of MLB experience, but he could project to being a solid 4th/5th starter. While in Triple-A, he has posted a very impressive 2.00 ERA over 76.1 innings and 13 starts. His time in the big leagues has resulted in a 7.24 ERA over four appearances and two starts. His last start resulted in him going 4.0 innings and allowing three runs, but more experience could help him get acclimated to big league hitting.
Another option would be Heath Fillmyer. The impressive season so far for Fillmyer should warrant a look at being a more permanent role with the team. His 3.38 ERA over 13.1 innings is impressive. But his last outing where he started was more impressive. He went 4.1 innings and allowed three earned runs, but he seemed gassed in the fourth inning. He was removed before the final two runs scored.
Kennedy wanted to come back quickly in 2017 from injury and it backfired on him. He then came back pretty quick from his injury this year and re-injured himself. Health seems to be something that will always be a problem for Kennedy and 2016 was a fluke.
But, just because he is on a big contract doesn’t mean the Royals have to keep trotting him out. The Royals season is done. Kennedy has zero trade value due to his health and contract (his contract is another discussion we can have later). So why should the Royals continue throwing him out there?
Instead, I think the Royals should shut him down. Maybe in 2019, the Royals can muster up a trade if he is healthy and productive. But they are in the process of seeing what the younger talent can do at other positions, including the starting rotation. So what harm is there in shutting Kennedy down now?
What do you think Royals fans? Should the Royals shut Kennedy down? Is it worth throwing him out there anymore this year? Who would you rather see start in his spot? Let us know below!