Chen led the Royals in wins last season with 12 wins and compiled a 4.17 ERA in 140.1 innings. He pitched ten games out of the bullpen and started another 23 after injuries knocked Gil Meche and Luke Hochevar out of the rotation. In 2009, he’d made 17 appearances for the Royals, starting nine games.
His 2010 earned him a major league contract. The past two seasons he’s signed with the Royals on a minor league deal and was promoted in midseason.
Once Chen passes his physical, he’ll join the 40 man roster, so somebody will have to go. Also, the Royals signed Jeff Francis on Friday, so that will result in two players making their way off the roster. To make room, the Royals might designate Henry Barrera, Kevin Pucetas, Jesse Chavez, or Kanekoa Texeira. Mitch Maier may be a casualty as well. If they can make it work soon enough, the Royals could also try to sneak Rule 5 pick Nathan Adcock off the 40 man roster.
Given the amount of the contract, I doubt Chen is going to repeat his swingman role from 2010. He and Francis have a good shot to make the rotation, and Sean O’Sullivan is probably the odd man out and could be a long relief option or a spot starter. I have to say I like a Hochevar/Francis/Mazzaro/Davies/Chen rotation better than what we were going to be faced with before the two weekend signings.
Barring injury, I don’t think we’ll see Everett Teaford or Danny Duffy up to start the year (and I doubt Duffy was in the mix if only to delay his service time). We may see one of them in midseason or Teaford could be the first starter up if a hole needs to be filled.
It’s another low-risk, low-commitment signing by the Royals that doesn’t really block anybody and doesn’t take a lot of money out of the coffers for the draft or international signings. The Royals got two league-average lefties (one with upside) for the rotation for $4 million. Given the remaining free agent options, that’s not too bad. It allows them to keep their players developing in the minors as well. As Dayton Moore has said “if you think they’re ready, wait a month.” The prospects will keep waiting.