The agreement with Kennedy, which reportedly would include an opt-out after the second year, would cost the Royals their first-round Draft pick in 2016. Kennedy would be paid $7.5 million this year and then $13.5 million, $16 million, $16.5 million and $16.5 million in each of the following four years, according to a report by MLB Network's Jon Heyman.
Kennedy's signing comes on the heels of the Royals retaining the face of their franchise, Alex Gordon, with a four-year, $72 million deal last week. They also reportedly are in agreement on a two-year, $17.5 million pact with All-Star center fielder Lorenzo Cain that would wipe out his final two arbitration years.
The Royals have been linked to Kennedy for weeks, and his presence would bolster what is becoming a deep rotation. He would likely slot in behind right-handers Edinson Volquez and Yordano Ventura. Kansas City re-signed right-hander Chris Young just before the Winter Meetings last month, and right-hander Kris Medlen and left-hander Danny Duffy are rotation candidates.
Kansas City also signed right-handers Dillon Gee and Chien-Ming Wang to Minor League deals earlier this offseason.
Royals general manager Dayton Moore has indicated in the past that he would like to enter the season with "eight rotation candidates."
Kennedy, 31, is coming off a down season with the Padres. He went 9-15 with a 4.28 ERA despite playing his home games at pitcher-friendly Petco Park.
The Royals likely are banking on Kennedy's ability to induce fly balls -- he ranked 14th last season with a fly-ball rate of 38.7 percent, and he has a 40.7 percent rate for his career -- because he should benefit from one of the best outfields in baseball, with Gordon, a four-time Gold Glover in left field, Cain in center, and speedy Jarrod Dyson in right.
Kennedy will be reunited with Royals pitching coach Dave Eiland, who was his pitching coach with the Yankees in 2008-09. He has gone 75-68 with a 3.98 ERA in nine career big league seasons.
Interestingly, the Royals indicated earlier this offseason that their 2016 payroll would not increase significantly from last year's Opening Day mark of $114 million. But by signing six players Friday to avoid arbitration, and with the Kennedy deal, the payroll will be pushing $130 million once they come to terms with third baseman Mike Moustakas, who is arbitration-eligible and has not yet signed.
Fantasy spin | Fred Zinkie (@FredZinkieMLB)
Despite a solid 8.7 K/9 rate since 2012, Kennedy has struggled to be a mixed-league rotation fixture across the past four seasons due to a 4.19 ERA and a 1.32 WHIP. At first glance, the outlook may seem bleak for an inconsistent starter who is on the move from the Senior Circuit to the offensively potent American League. But a closer look reveals the potential for a beneficial situation that enables Kennedy to be a mixed-league asset. The defending World Series champions should give the right-hander outstanding defensive support, and an elite Royals relief corps could help him to post a strong win total. Long balls sometimes give Kennedy trouble (lifetime 1.1 HR/9 rate), and he should not only benefit from pitcher-friendly Kauffman Stadium, but also from pitching in a division that possesses just one hitter-friendly venue (U.S. Cellular Field).
The Royals' rotation will require close attention from fantasy owners during Spring Training. Kennedy, Volquez and Ventura should occupy three rotation spots, with Medlen, Young, Duffy and Gee competing for the final two openings. Those who ultimately fill out the Royals' starting five will deserve attention in deep-mixed formats.
Jeffrey Flanagan is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FlannyMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.