Royals and Ian Kennedy finalize $70 million, 5-year contract
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Ian Kennedy remembers watching the Kansas City Royals beat the New York Mets in five games to win the World Series and marveling at a dynamic defense that seemed to never make a mistake.
Then he considered what was behind him in San Diego.
''Our defense was really bad,'' Kennedy said with a smile.
So when he became a free agent after the season, Kennedy jumped at the prospect of signing with the Royals. He would be pitching in spacious Kauffman Stadium to standout catcher Salvador Perez, and have a fielding corps behind him that features a slew of Gold Glove winners.
''I've always wanted to play with guys like that, and good teams I've played with, they've had that,'' Kennedy said. ''They play unbelievable defense.''
Well, Kennedy is getting his chance to play with guys like that again.
The Royals announced their $70 million, five-year deal with him on Friday. They agreed to terms nearly two weeks ago, but Kennedy was in Hawaii and didn't want to cut his vacation short, so they put off the announcement so that it could coincide with the team's annual FanFest.
He gets $7.5 million next year, $13.5 million in 2017, $16 million in 2018 and $16.5 million each of the final two seasons. He can opt out after the 2017 season, receive a $6 million buyout and become a free agent again. If he opts out, the agreement would become a $27 million, two-year deal.
''I wanted to go to a team that would win,'' Kennedy said. ''You ask anybody, we'd all say the same thing: `We want to go to a winner, or a chance to go to a winner.'''
The 31-year-old Kennedy went 9-15 with a 4.28 ERA for the San Diego Padres last season, but he is four years removed from a 21-win season with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He also pitched for the New York Yankees during his nine-year big league career, where he worked with pitching coach Dave Eiland.
Now, he'll be reunited with Eiland in Kansas City.
''They asked me my opinion and I gave it to them, but that's no different than when they're looking at any pitcher,'' Eiland said. ''But he's going to fit in nicely.''
Kansas City was seeking another starter to replace Johnny Cueto, who signed a $130 million, six-year deal with the Giants after helping the Royals win their first World Series since 1985.
More accurately, they were seeking another starter who could soak up innings. The Royals struggled to get innings out of their rotation last season, and Kennedy has eclipsed 200 innings three times.
''Dave has a lot of confidence that Ian's going to be an inning-eater for us, a consistent performer,'' Royals manager Ned Yost said. ''You know what you're going to get every time he steps on the mound. You're not just hoping he's going to throw a good game. You have a pretty good idea.''
Kennedy turned down the Padres' qualifying offer - a guaranteed $15.8 million salary for next season. That means San Diego will receive a compensation round draft pick, and Kansas City loses its first-round selection.
Kennedy will likely slide into the middle of the rotation behind Edinson Volquez and Yordano Ventura, and ahead of Kris Medlen and Chris Young. The Royals also have Danny Duffy, Dillon Gee and a handful of others who stand to compete for the fifth spot in spring training.
''We feel real good with our starting rotation this year,'' Yost said. ''It's always competitive, but we'll do like we do every spring. We'll go out, let guys pitch. You go in with an open mind. It's never set in stone when you get to spring training. Let guys compete, then we'll see what's best for our team, what's going to give us the best opportunity to compete for another championship.''