A veteran pitcher is the first player the KC Royals shouldn’t consider for 2021.
Ian Kennedy did something hard last season. With only two relief appearances among his nearly 300 games prior to 2019, he moved to the KC Royals’ bullpen, pitched 63 times, and saved 30 games for a bad team that lost over 100.
But the KC Royals didn’t give Kennedy a five-year, $70 million contract—the second biggest deal in club history (Alex Gordon signed three weeks before for $72 million)—to pitch out of the pen. They signed him to start, but his performance over the first three years of the deal prompted his move to the bullpen. Kennedy’s modest first year (11-11 with a 3.68 ERA) was his best in the rotation; he went 11-24 the next three years before successfully transitioning to relief work.
Kennedy, however, regressed this season. He lost his closer role to Trevor Rosenthal, is 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA in 15 appearances, and has surrendered seven home runs in 14 innings. He’s injured and may not pitch again this year.
That Kennedy’s contract expires at the end of this season might suggest forgetting him is automatic. After all, he vanishes from the roster as soon as the contract ends, but these are the Royals and they often do strange things. So Kennedy, a good closer last year, may still be a candidate for that role next season—Rosenthal is gone, current closer Greg Holland’s one-year deal renders him uncertain to return, and Kennedy’s past and present struggles will decrease his market value. (The Royals like inexpensive help).
Kennedy’s past struggles as a Royal, though, and their return this season, are all the reasons the franchise needs to thank Kennedy and bid him farewell. The Royals have viable closer choices, Josh Staumont and Scott Barlow among them, and, should they choose to pursue a free agent closer, Holland is the better choice.