According to Jon Heyman, the Royals are engaged with free-agent starter, Ian Kennedy.
royals are said to be making progress on ian kennedy. talking are ongoing.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) January 15, 2016
Kennedy reached free agency at a difficult time for a couple reasons. The first being that he simply wasn't good in 2015. In 168.1 innings, Kennedy pitched to the tune of a 4.28 ERA, a 4.51 FIP, and a 1.66 HR/9. His strikeout and walk rates were both above average however, which provide some hope that Kennedy can be a valuable starter again.
The second, and likely the most important reason for why he's still a free agent, was the sheer number of available targets this offseason. With over 40 starting pitchers on the open market, Kennedy was at the bottom of the pile due to his subpar 2015 season, as well as being tied to a qualifying offer. But with just a few pitchers remaining, it seems that Kennedy is finally close to signing a contract.
The Royals already have five starters slated for the opening day rotation, but Kansas City could move Danny Duffy to the bullpen if they do add a starter. Kennedy would also represent insurance for the Royals, as Yordano Ventura and Duffy have both dealt with injury concerns.
According to our own Chris Cotillo, there's a factor at play that's reportedly a key reason as to why Kennedy might be headed to the Royals.
Industry sources indicate that the belief is that the Royals are focused on Ian Kennedy, and that the Dave Eiland connection is key.— Chris Cotillo (@ChrisCotillo) January 15, 2016
Dave Eiland has been the pitching coach for the Royals since 2011, but from 2003-2010, he was a member of the Yankees organization, and helped the development of young pitchers like Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, and of course, Kennedy.
While still a member of the Yankees, Kennedy was billed as one of the most heralded pitching prospects in the game, but he never got a real opportunity to stick with New York. Over the course of three major league seasons, Kennedy threw just 59.2 innings for the Yankees, and he was eventually shipped off to the Diamondbacks in the three team trade that sent Curtis Granderson to New York, and Max Scherzer to Detroit, among other players.
As of now, it's unclear how close the Royals are to a deal with Kennedy, or for what the terms would be, but it would seem likely that he'd receive a multi-year deal. If Kansas City is going to part-with their first round pick for Kennedy, it's hard to believe that they would do so for a one-year commitment. If there are any developments with this story, this article will be updated.