The Rangers on Tuesday signed veteran right-hander Ian Kennedy to a Minor League deal that includes a Spring Training invite. Kennedy could earn a $2.15 million salary -- plus potentially more in performance incentives -- if he makes the Rangers’ roster, a source told MLB.com's Mark Feinsand.
Kennedy, 36, will add more pitching depth for the Rangers. A 14-year MLB vet with a career 4.13 ERA, Kennedy spent the past five seasons with Kansas City, where he transitioned to a bullpen role after being a starter for most of his career.
Kennedy and Rangers general manager Chris Young were teammates in Kansas City from 2016-17. Young said their personal connection didn’t influence his baseball judgement, and he expects Kennedy to come in and compete for a spot.
“Just knowing the player he was, the person he was, I’m certainly very familiar with the person. You know who he is and [his] leadership qualities,” Young said. “He's perfectly comfortable. I think that he'll be a great addition for our group here, and everybody will learn something from him."
Kennedy struggled with injuries in the shortened 2020 season, making just 15 appearances with a 9.00 ERA and a 1.79 WHIP. This came after he recorded 30 saves and struck out 73 hitters over 63 1/3 innings a year earlier with the Royals.
If he makes the Rangers' roster, Kennedy will join José Leclerc, Jonathan Hernández and Joely Rodriguez at the back end of the bullpen. Young said Kennedy could be an intriguing option as a closer, but his versatility will be particularly valuable if the veteran makes the squad.
Manager Chris Woodward said the Rangers are looking at different possibilities for the rotation this season -- from a six-man rotation to a piggyback option -- and Kennedy has the ability to go multiple innings out of the bullpen in either situation.
“If you have a piggyback situation, you go five-man [rotation] and you have one piggyback,” Woodward said. “Honestly the biggest challenge is the number of pitchers on your staff. If we want to go 13, we’ve got to keep it pretty compact and guys have to throw multiple innings that are in the bullpen. We can't do it with a bunch of one-inning guys.
"There's a lot of pieces, there's a lot of obvious things to look at, but ... we have a lot of people on task. We're trying to collaborate and figure out the best way moving forward.”