Out to repeat, Royals improve rotation, 'pen

Kennedy, Soria among GM Moore's key moves

February 10th, 2016

KANSAS CITY -- As we gear up for the beginning of Spring Training, we continue our series of previews with Part II: The New Guys.

The Royals certainly didn't get crazy with offseason free-agent signings. Royals general manager Dayton Moore maintains it is a flawed way of building a roster. But their primary focus was on retaining two key pieces to their 2015 championship run -- left fielder Alex Gordon and right-hander Chris Young -- while strengthening the bullpen and the rotation.

Spring Training preview Part I: Five Royals poised to bounce back

Keep in mind, too, that Moore traditionally keeps adding pieces throughout Spring Training.

Here's a look at the key new guys:

RHP Ian Kennedy: On the surface, the five-year, $70 million deal that Moore gave Kennedy would seem like a reach, given Kennedy's mediocre season with the Padres in 2015 -- 4.28 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP. But the Royals rarely whiff on guys they are determined to get or on guys they believe will have bounce-back years -- see Young, Ryan Madson, Kendrys Morales, Edinson Volquez, etc.

Spring Training Information

Kennedy, 31, is a fly-ball pitcher who will pitch in a big ballpark and who also should benefit from a superior defense behind him. Kennedy has a history with pitching coach Dave Eiland (they were together with the Yankees) and is a guy who could gobble up 190-200 innings, which is exactly what Moore covets.

RHP Joakim Soria: Moore needed help for his shutdown bullpen after losing All-Star closer Greg Holland to Tommy John surgery and Madson to free agency. So, Jack is Back. Soria started his career with the Royals in 2007 and was a dominant closer for years before his own TJ surgery in 2012 cut short his Kansas City tenure.

But Moore was eager to get Soria back this offseason and offered a three-year, $25 million deal. Soria will team up with setup men Luke Hochevar and Kelvin Herrera in front of closer Wade Davis. And Soria no doubt will spell Davis on occasion when Davis needs rest.

C Tony Cruz: This may have seemed like a curious trade, considering the Royals already have Drew Butera backing up All-Star Salvador Perez. But when the Royals got Cruz from the Cardinals, they foresaw competition for Butera for the backup spot, and they also were hoping to upgrade the position defensively at Triple-A since Cruz has options. Cruz won't provide much offense (career .572 OPS), but he has a strong arm and can handle pitchers.

RHP Dillon Gee: Gee, 29, was pushed aside last year to make way for the hard-throwing young Mets starters, but keep in mind that in 2013 he threw 199 innings for the Mets and posted a 3.62 ERA. Gee, signed to a Minor League deal with a Spring Training invite, will compete with Danny Duffy, Kris Medlen and Young for the final two rotation spots. Eiland specifically pointed out to reporters at FanFest that Gee could be a factor in 2016.