The Royals are another team that seem to be caught in between trying to compete with their existing core for another year, or selling off assets that they won’t be able to re-sign in order to facilitate a quick rebuild.
They’re still a talented team, with many players still employed that were on their team when they won the World Series in 2015; however, they failed to play at a level in 2016 that would have gotten them into the playoffs, and they’ve already lost Morales in free agency and Wade Davis via trade.
This has spurned talks of a sell, and there was rumours of this beginning at last year’s trade deadline. They held off on doing so at the time, but the Davis trade could be one of many deals they make if they end up committing to this process.
The potential free agents they’ll have after the 2017 season are Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain, Jarrod Dyson, Alcides Escobar, and Danny Duffy. That’s a very good group of players, and the Royals have virtually no chance of resigning them all. With their chances of making the playoffs already lower after their 2016 season that resulted in nothing, and the compensation for departing free agents is worse than it was before the new CBA, there is plenty of value for the Royals to trade off assets.
The idea below is contingent on whether or not the Royals continue to make trades like the Davis for Jorge Soler trade, if they don’t and decide to take one more run with the current core, than this idea likely isn’t at all realistic. With that being said, I think the Jays could target Ian Kennedy and his ugly contract.
There were rumours circulating about the Royals looking to offload Kennedy’s contract in the summer and nothing came to fruition at the time, but I believe this is a good time for the Blue Jays to use this to their advantage.
Kennedy signed with the Royals last offseason for five years and 70 million. He is owed $13 million in 2017, followed by 16, 16.5, and 16.5 in the three years following. It’s not a flattering contract by any means, but Kennedy isn’t useless, coming off a season where he threw 195.2 IP with a 3.68 ERA and a 4.67 FIP, which is dragged down because of an ugly 1.52 HR/9.
If the Royals are indeed sold on selling, keeping Kennedy’s contract on the books for the next four years doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. By the time they’re ready to compete again, he won’t be a major contributor, and they’d be better off saving that money, or better yet, spending it to resign one of their young soon-to-be free agents in the short term.
By taking on Kennedy’s full salary, you open up the potential to get Dyson or Cain included in the deal at a relative bargain. Obviously, you’ll have to create a package that entices the Royals, despite the money involved, but the Blue Jays can create leverage for themselves in that regard by taking on the salary commitments.
Getting Cain would be a big boost for this team in 2017, and even Dyson would provide a lot of value if he were to be acquired as well, so I believe it’s well worth the salary investment in order to acquire one or both of them. As far as Kennedy goes, well, you can plug him into the fifth starter role, while Liriano moves into the bullpen as the primary lefty. It gives you depth in both the bullpen and rotation.
The contracts of Liriano and Marco Estrada are off the books at the end of the season, making the absorption of Kennedy’s contract a little bit easier, and he can fill a back of the rotation role following 2017. It’s obviously a pricey cost to fill such a role, but if it means you can acquire help for the major league team in 2017 without giving up top prospects, it’s a worthwhile proposition. Doing so would bridge the competitive gap until the next wave of prospects enter the big leagues.
Kennedy’s 2016 1.52 HR rate is obviously a concern, but that concern comes with a 8.46 K/9 and a 3.04 BB/9, so there’s clearly something to work with here. By no means are you acquiring dead weight. The home run concern was beat to death when Estrada was acquired, but it was simply pitch usage and repertoire adjustments that have unlocked the success he’s had the past two years. There’s no way to say if the same is possible with Kennedy, but at least the consistent track record with regards to his strikeout and walk totals is a good sign.