A Winter 2016 signing didn’t pan out the way the KC Royals wanted it to.
Hoping to reach the World Series for a third straight season, Kansas City took steps after winning the 2015 Fall Classic to secure a solid starting rotation for 2016. Faced with losing Johnny Cueto and Jeremy Guthrie to free agency, and knowing Jason Vargas would miss most of 2016 rehabbing from Tommy John Surgery, they made a whopping $70 million, five year investment in free agent starter Ian Kennedy.
Unfortunately, the deal met a fate similar to Duffy’s.
Kennedy’s first season was as bland as his team’s—both went .500, with Kennedy finishing up 11-11. A miserable 5-13 season followed, and he went 3-9 in 2018, spurring the KC brain trust to move him to the bullpen in 2019.
And there Kennedy flourished. He saved 30 games in 63 appearances, averaged over 10 strikeouts per nine innings for the first time, and became the presumptive closer for 2020.
But the Royals, apparently entertaining other ideas, signed big name relievers Trevor Rosenthal and Greg Holland in the offseason. Rosenthal immediately assumed the closer’s role while Kennedy struggled to an 0-2 record and surrendered 14 runs in 14 innings before losing almost all of September to a calf injury. He left for free agency after the pandemic-shortened campaign, and his contract, ended.
For $70 million, Kansas City received from Kennedy one good season out of five, and that in the relief role they didn’t sign him to fill. A single decent season wasn’t what the Royals were looking for.