Unlike some teams, the KC Royals don’t mind recycling players. Only a year ago, they brought back former star closer Wade Davis to join Greg Holland, another of their ex-bullpen aces who was returning for a second straight Kansas City season after an absence of several years.
They rescued Mike Moustakas and Alcides Escobar, both of whom played key roles on Kansas City’s 2014 and 2015 World Series teams, from an unfavorable 2018 free agent market. A year later, they inexplicably reunited with Lucas Duda, who they’d tried in Eric Hosmer’s old first base spot before selling him to Atlanta with a month to go in the 2018 campaign.
They gave Terrance Gore a second try in late 2018.
And now, the club could, but shouldn’t, pursue three notable former Royals who’ll be back on the free agent market when the MLB lockout ends.
The KC Royals can afford to pass on this starter-turned-reliever for 2022.
Kansas City, a frugal franchise not known for throwing its money around, assured Ian Kennedy of wild riches when, in the winter of 2016, they surprisingly signed the right-handed starter for $70 million to pitch for them for five years.
Unfortunately, the Royals wasted much of that money. Kennedy went a passable 11-11 with KC in 2016, then slumped to 5-13 in 2017 and 3-9 the following year. Together with a so-so bullpen, his 19-33 record as a starter prompted KC to try Kennedy in the bullpen in 2019.
And there he flourished. Kennedy became the club’s closer with a surprising 30 saves and 3-2, 3.42 ERA record in 60 relief appearances, and set himself up as the presumptive closer for 2020.
But then came Trevor Rosenthal, an offseason signee who wasted no time bumping Kennedy to the middle of the pen, where he went 0-2 and gave up 14 earned runs in as many innings. That he suffered a late-August calf strain and didn’t pitch at all in September didn’t help.
Kennedy moved on to Texas and Philadelphia last season and saved 26 games with a 3.21 ERA over 55 appearances. But even those decent numbers don’t warrant a Royal reunion—he’s 37 now, and the Royals should seek younger relievers to shore up their pen. And nearing the end of his career, Kansas City isn’t a likely destination for Kennedy, who probably prefers a club with a lock on postseason play.