Royals Working on Deal with Kennedy, Close in on Rounding Out Rotation

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It was tweeted by Jon Heyman earlier today that the Royals are making progress in signing pitching free agent Ian Kennedy. Kennedy would provide the starter that General Manager Dayton Moore has alluded to have been seeking since the end of the postseason. While spending his last 3 seasons with the Padres, he has a 3.97 ERA in 426.2 innings and has struck out 9.2 batters per 9 innings. Because of the league and ballpark, this has resulted in an ERA+ that is slightly below average at 88.

In 2015, he was bitten a bit by the home run bug and allowed 1.7 dingers per nine innings, a problem that is often remedied inside the spacious confines of Kauffman Stadium. He has had a bit of an up and down career in terms of season by season, but his ERA over the last 3 years was nearly identical to his career ERA of 3.98 meaning he is pretty much the same guy he has always been. His velocity was actually up a click in 2015, and he relies heavily on his fastball.

Kennedy may not represent an ace or even front of the rotation starter, but as has been the case for the last several years, the Royals do not require top end starters to be successful. With one of, if not the best defenses in all of baseball, average starters often end up with good numbers. Average plays very well for the Royals and average is almost exactly what Ian Kennedy is, evidenced by his career ERA+ of 97 (100 being league average). 

If a team was looking to replace an outgoing ace, Kennedy would represent a downgrade and would elicit groans from a fan base, but if a team simply needs to fill out spots and log innings, then he might just be the ticket.

The Royals will once again rely heavily on Edinson Volquez and Yordano Ventura to anchor a staff. With Vargas almost certain to miss the entirety of the 2016 season, that leaves Danny Duffy, Chris Medlen, Chris Young and a few young hopefuls with little chance to crack the opening day roster. Medlen will be looking to complete his first full season after coming back from his second Tommy John surgery in 2015. Chris Young has shown an ability to be an effective starter provided his overall innings are limited over the course of the season, most likely somewhere in the below 150 innings range.

Danny Duffy has been somewhat of an enigma, falling just shy of qualifying for the pitching title in 2014 and being among the top 6 starters in the American league to having a ho-hum 2015 in which he could never break out of a cycle of mediocrity, sometimes showing flashes and other times giving his team almost no chance to win in poor performances.

A signing like Kennedy would mean the Royals could have 6 quality starters, which is still almost not enough historically. It will be interesting to see which of the three between Young, Medlen and Duffy secure the final 2 spots once a third "anchor" starter is signed. Duffy has often expressed a desire to take his talents to the bullpen as he has felt his style and passion would resonate better in a relief role than that as a starter. It is often hard for an organization to give up quality starting pitching when it is so hard to come by. This could be a make or break year for Duffy in terms of his future prospects of remaining a starter.

Medlen showed flashes of brilliance at the end of 2015 and finished with a slightly above average ERA of 4.01 in 58.1 innings with 8 of his 15 games being starts. He was signed by Dayton Moore for his ability to be a starter in 2016, so it is quite possible he has already been written into the rotation in pen by the organization.

Chris Young recently signed a 2 year $11.5 million extension with the Royals after signing for the minimum in 2015. He was the 2014 comeback player of the year and was inexplicably left out on the cold at the beginning of spring training with no team having signed him. After having shoulder issues a few years back, his age, and often inability to go more than 5 innings per start it was possible teams were scared away. In a mixed role between the bullpen and starting rotation, Young posted a 3.06 ERA in 123.1 innings, including 18 regular season starts.

He most likely signed with the Royals knowing he was going to get a crack at breaking camp in the starting rotation, but it would be best served if the Royals are able to keep his innings down so he can stay freshed, evidenced by how they handled him last season before he pitched incredibly well at the end of the regular season and then in the playoffs.

With spring training fast approaching, there seem to be fewer question marks than ever before on this Royals squad, and considering they are entering the season as the defending champions, that is a good thing. Bringing Alex Gordon back was the biggest key to the offseason, but otherwise most of the holes are ones that are almost easily filled. It will not be hard to match or exceed the production provided by Alex Rios in right field, nor will it be hard to improve on Jeremy Guthrie departing the rotation.

The starting rotation almost certainly will not be among tops in the league, but with this team, that isn't a requirement anyway.

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