The Royals are looking to capitalize on the demand for Wade Davis by attempting to package Ian Kennedy’s contract with him in trade talks, reports Yahoo’s Jeff Passan (via Twitter). Passan notes that the Dodgers are one team with noted interest in Davis that could afford to take on the remainder of Kennedy’s enormous contract. Joel Sherman of the New York Post hears the same as Passan — that the Royals are trying to attach Kennedy’s onerous financial commitment to Davis in trade talks — though he gets the sense that the Dodgers wouldn’t be willing to take on that type of money to get their hands on Davis (links to Twitter).
While the asking price on Davis, in terms of prospects, has been said to be exceptionally high — Kansas City has reportedly targeted Lucas Giolito in exchange for him, and the Arodis Chapman package reportedly wouldn’t have been enough for Davis — absorbing Kennedy’s staggering contract would dramatically reduce the prospect capital required for any team to add Davis to its bullpen. Kennedy signed one of the most stunning and widely panned contracts of the offseason, securing a five-year $70MM contract that included an opt-out clause after the second year. He’s owed $2.7MM for the remainder of this season and a total of $65.2MM through the end of his deal in 2020. Kennedy could technically opt out after the 2017 season, in which case he’d “only” be owed $22.2MM through the end of next season, but based on his performance this year, that seems unlikely.
The 31-year-old Kennedy (32 in December) has pitched to a 4.41 ERA with 9.2 K/9, 3.1 BB/9 and a career-low 33.2 percent ground-ball rate in 2016. His 26 home runs allowed are the most in the league, and the dramatic spike he saw in his homer-to-flyball ratio last season hasn’t regressed whatsoever, still sitting at 17.3 percent. Given the increase of fly-balls he’s seen this year, that has made him even more homer-prone than he was in 2015 and resulted in a dismal 2.05 HR/9 rate. The Royals’ signing of Kennedy was a contributor to their franchise-record payroll this season, and the hefty financial commitment they made to him in the long term could impact the team’s ability to retain stars such as Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain and Davis — each of whom is a free agent following the 2017 season.
Of course, it could be a tough pill to swallow for the Dodgers to take an asset with as much trade value as Davis possesses and leverage him as a means of shedding payroll. The Royals could reasonably ask for a greater package than the one the Cubs surrendered for Chapman — Gleyber Torres, Adam Warren, Billy McKinney and Rashad Crawford — given the extra year of control over Davis at a reasonable rate. However, the possibility also exists that Kansas City is trying to capitalize in fear of a potential decline or injury.
Davis has already missed time this season with a forearm strain, and while his ERA rests at an immaculate 1.60, the rest of his stats are far less encouraging. Davis’s strikeout rate has dipped from 13.6 K/9 in 2014 and 10.4 K/9 in to 2015 to a more mortal 8.6 K/9 in 2016. He’s also averaging four walks per nine innings this year — a noted increase over the 2.8 BB/9 he logged from 2014-15 — and has seen his fastball dip from an average of 95.8 mph in 2014-15 to 94.9 mph in 2016. Davis’ bottom-line results, of course, remain tantalizing, and his track record is among the best in the game. Nonetheless, there are at least some red flags that could give potential trade partners cause for concern, especially if they’re being asked to take on a contract as unappealing as Kennedy’s in conjunction with Davis himself.