The noteworthy signings keep on coming on this Saturday morning. MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reports that the Royals and Ian Kennedy have reached agreement on a five-year, $70 million contract. FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal hears that the deal includes an opt-out after two years.
Coming off a 4.28 ERA with 31 homers allowed in 168 1/3 innings in 2015, Kennedy received a one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer from the Padres in November. Many were surprised that the 31-year-old didn’t take the qualifying offer, as it was assumed that it would severely impact his market. For most of the winter, it seemingly did, but Scott Boras ended up landing a pretty nice deal for his client here. It’s just a shade under what Mike Leake and Wei-Yin Chen (five years, $80 million) received.
The Royals, who have been linked to Kennedy for the past couple of weeks, will surrender their first-round pick in order to sign him. He’ll be reunited with his former pitching coach Dave Eiland and join a rotation which includes names like Edinson Volquez, Yordano Ventura, Kris Medlen, Danny Duffy, and Chris Young.
While it hasn’t shown in his ERA, Kennedy has struck out 24.4 percent of the batters he has faced over the past two seasons. Pitching in the National League has surely helped, so we’ll likely see that number go down with the Royals, but only 18 starting pitchers (min. 250 IP) have a higher strikeout percentage in that timespan. Kennedy has also been durable, making at least 30 starts in each of the last six seasons. Still, this is a heck of a job by Boras after Kennedy’s market has been quiet all winter.
Around this time last year, the ink was drying on Manny Machado‘s 10-year, $300 million contract with the Padres and Bryce Harper was about to put the finishing touches on his 13-year, $330 million deal with the Phillies. We had gotten used to premier free agents hanging out in limbo until late February and even into March. This past offseason, however, was a return to normal. The top three free agents — Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon, and Stephen Strasburg — all signed in December. Once the big names are off the board, the lesser free agents subsequently tend to find homes. There were a handful of noteworthy signings in January, but pretty much everyone was off the board when February began.
There are a handful of free agents remaining as I write this, with one name really sticking out: Yasiel Puig. Last season, between the Reds and Indians, Puig hit .267/.327/.458 with 24 home runs, 84 RBI, 76 runs scored, and 19 stolen bases in 611 plate appearances. He was one of only seven players in the league last year to hit at least 24 home runs and swipe at least 19 bases. While Puig has had some problems over the years, he still possesses a rare blend of power and speed that would seem useful.
The Marlins, White Sox, and Rockies have been linked to Puig this offseason. His market has been otherwise quiet since he became a free agent. The Athletic’s Jim Bowden suggests Puig will have to settle for a “pillow contract” — a one-year deal with which Puig reestablishes his market value, aiming to pursue a multi-year deal the following offseason. Along with the aforementioned three teams, Bowden suggests the Mariners, Indians, Pirates, Giants, Red Sox, and Cardinals as other teams that could potentially fit with Puig, which is not to be confused with teams having expressed interest in his services.