With Ian Kennedy set to become a free agent after next season, the Kansas City Royals should consider exploring a trade this offseason.
When Wade Davis was traded to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for Jorge Soler during the 2016 offseason, the Kansas City Royals were coming off an average season in which they went 81-81. In general, it was the beginning of their transition from a “win-now” mode to the early stages of their rebuild. Fellow bullpen arm Greg Holland had missed the entire 2016 offseason recovering from Tommy John Surgery and had elected free agency after the World Series Championship in 2015.
With Davis’ contract set to expire at the end of the 2017 season, it only made sense to unload him to a team that was still in a championship window and that’s exactly what they did. They should consider doing the same with Ian Kennedy this offseason.
Kennedy will be entering the final year of his contract when the 2020 season starts as a 35-year old closer. The former starter turned bullpen arm has found a tremendous amount of success as the Royals closer this season, collecting 30 saves in 34 chances. His fastball velocity has been more lively due to needing fewer pitches coming out of the bullpen.
The white elephant in the room is Kennedy’s contract. It’s going to be extremely difficult to get another party to take on all of his $16.5 million salary for a one-year rental, so the Royals would be expected to eat some of his salary if a trade were to be worked out. There are several contenders that would make for terrific trade partners who could use the services of Kennedy.
Several reports indicate that soon-to-be-former owner David Glass blocked a trade involving Ian Kennedy at the trade deadline that would have netted them the Atlanta Braves’ 40th overall pick in the 2016 MLB Draft. Wentz ended up going to Detroit in the Shane Greene deal and pitched 25.2 innings with 37 strikeouts while walking just 4 batters and spinning a 2.10 ERA for their Double-A squad.
Aroldis Chapman has already stated that he plans to opt-out of his final two years with the New York Yankees. It will be interesting to see if they plan to make Dellin Betances their new closer, who has been very good as a setup man but has missed essentially the entire 2019 season with shoulder problems and a torn achilles. Other teams that could potentially be looking to add a closer or set up man for next season include the Washington Nationals, San Francisco Giants, Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Milwaukee Brewers.
Some of these clubs would need a reactionary move to warrant a trade for a closer as in the case of the Nationals or Dodgers needing their current closers to opt-out of their contracts. That being said, the Royals don’t figure to be competitive in 2020 and should try to unload any veteran player that has any trade value.