KC's winning ways, 'D' have Kennedy excited

Righty's 5-year, $70M deal has an opt-out after '17

KC's winning ways, 'D' have Kennedy excited

KANSAS CITY -- When word that right-hander Ian Kennedy and the Royals had reached a contract agreement started spreading two weeks ago, Kennedy got a call from former Padres teammate James Shields.

Shields, who helped the Royals to a winning season in 2013 and a run to Game 7 of the World Series in '14, alerted Kennedy that he was in for a shock with Kansas City: He would be pitching for an elite defense.

"When [agent] Scott [Boras] first started talking with the Royals and I knew they were interested in me, I started thinking, 'Man, I might play in front of this great defense,'" Kennedy said at the club's FanFest on Friday. "That's one of the first things Shields told me when I talked to him. He said, 'You're not going to believe that defense.'

"I know I'll be playing in front of the best defense I've played with."

Kennedy took notice of that defense while watching the Royals in the playoffs last season.

"When you watch teams in the playoffs, they have great defenses and they win the important games," Kennedy said. "With the Royals, they just happen to have a great offense, too. But when you watch the Royals' [defense], there are definitely balls that should be in the gap that get caught.

"It has to be a lot of good coaching, too, with positioning. It's exciting to watch as a baseball fan."

And it was during the playoffs when Kennedy, a pending free agent then, began to ponder about what it would be like playing for the Royals.

"There are teams you see in the playoffs that have a good young core that you know are going to be good," he said. "As a player, you want to play for a winner.

"I thought, 'If they're interested, that would be a pretty nice place to play.' It's worked out unbelievably well."

Kennedy's deal took a little longer to finalize because he was in Hawaii on a family vacation when an agreement was reached, and he needed to take the mandatory physical.

"I remember asking them, 'Do I have to come home?'" Kennedy said, laughing. "And they said, 'Nah. Stay there. [Royals general manager] Dayton [Moore] is in the Dominican. We'll figure it out later.'"

The Royals decided it would be good timing to announce the deal this week, just in front of FanFest.

Kennedy, 31, has a five-year deal worth $70 million with an opt-out after two years in which he would receive a $6 million buyout. He will receive $7.5M this year, $13.5M in '17, $16M in '18, $16.5M in '19 and $16.5M in '20.

"I'm just very grateful to Dayton and the Glass family," Kennedy said. "I'm excited to help this team."

Andrew Simon is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.