As initially reported by MLB Network’s Jon Heyman, the Kansas City Royals have agreed to a five-year, $70 million contract with starting pitcher Ian Kennedy. ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick adds that the deal includes an opt-out after the 2017 season, continuing this offseason’s trend of opt-outs, a piece of contractual flexibility that benefits the player.
The contract comes with some interesting timing, as Kennedy’s teammate with the 2015 San Diego Padres, James Shields, was allowed by the Royals to leave Kansas City in free agency, agreeing with the Padres on a four-year deal with two opt-outs.
The Royals had been linked to Kennedy throughout this offseason thanks to Kennedy’s high fly ball rate (or: low ground ball rate) — a feature that plays to Kansas City’s advantage in their spacious Kauffman Stadium, which is patrolled by their especially talented outfield defenders. Among qualified pitchers last season, Kennedy gave up the 11th-lowest proportion of fly balls. On their way to winning the World Series championship last season, the Royals gave up the third-lowest proportion of fly balls in the Majors.
Seeing as this is Kennedy’s first foray into free agency, the $70 million payout marks a huge jump over his pervious career earnings, which total $24.6 million since being drafted in 2006.