The Royals and Ian Kennedy inked a contract yesterday, with the team giving Kennedy $70 million over five seasons to come and pitch in Kansas City.
The contract is the Royals' second-largest contract signing in franchise history, coming in behind the $72 million guarantee given to Alex Gordon earlier this offseason.
You read that correctly. Ian Kennedy now represents the second-richest player in Royals franchise history.
This is the same Ian Kennedy that had a 4.91 ERA in 2013. However, this is also the same Ian Kennedy that finished fourth in the National League Cy Young voting in 2011.
Which Kennedy will the Royals be getting in the deal?
I'd be willing to bet on the 2011 version of Kennedy for numerous reasons.
First off, Kennedy's xFIP--a statistic that determines what a pitcher's ERA should have been based on factors only they can control, such as strikeouts and walks--was 3.70 in 2015. That was the lowest mark since his 2011 season when it was 3.50.
What suggests that Kennedy's actual ERA will be able to be in the mid-3 range in 2016?
Kennedy gave up an unusually high number of home runs in 2015, with 17.2 percent of fly balls going for long balls. That mark is almost seven percent above his career average (10.2 percent). That number is almost guaranteed to drop, as home run rates normalize over time.
Secondly, the defense behind Kennedy greatly improves with his move to KC.
In fact, according to UZR, a stat that shows how many runs a team saved on defense compared to an league defender, Kennedy moves from the second-worst defense in the Major Leagues in the Padres to the best in Royals. San Diego cost their pitchers a total of 34.4 runs in 2015, while Kansas City saved their pitchers 50.9 runs. That's a 85.3 run swing.
Now, all those runs won't go to Kennedy's ERA. However, it does show that the Royals' defenders will be helping to make Kennedy a more effective pitcher, while the Padres were actually hurting that.
Finally, in an offseason where J.A. Happ got $12 million, this contract continues looks better and better for the team. Ian Kennedy is arguably as good or possibly better than Mike Leake, who got $16 million per season.
The 2011 Ian Kennedy might be making an appearance in Kansas City in 2016 and beyond.