The key to the trade that sent Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi, amongst others, to the Tampa Bay Rays was obviously James Shields. The Royals knew what they were getting with Shields – a potential top of the rotation starter that could fill a void that they had since Zack Greinke was traded following the 2010 season. Yet, they also acquired an intriguing player in Wade Davis.
Davis had his moments as a starter for the Rays over his first two seasons, but truly broke out as a reliever in 2012. He added over two miles per hour to his fastball over previous seasons, and Davis struck out over eleven betters per nine innings. It appeared as though Davis had found his niche.
However, the Royals, in need to depth in their rotation, plugged Davis back in as a starter. As much as Davis had issues as a starter in Tampa, he was even worse with the Royals. In 24 starts, Davis was 6-10 with a 5.67 ERA. Yet, when the Royals sent Davis back to the bullpen, the turnaround was remarkable. In his seven relief outings, Davis gave up seven baserunners in ten innings, going 2-1 with a 0.90 ERA. His fastball velocity crept back up to where it had been the previous year, and Davis seemed to be a much different pitcher.
Going into 2014, the Royals may have several open spots in their rotation. With Shields and Jeremy Guthrie the only starters that are likely assured of being in the rotation, the Royals may look at putting Davis back into the rotation again. However, at this point, it appears as though Davis may be best suited for a role in the bullpen, slotting in as a middle reliever. If he continues to pitch as well as he has in relief, it may be possible that Davis can even develop into a solid setup man, giving the Royals bullpen yet another option in the latter innings.
It may be tempting to regard Wade Davis as an option in the rotation, but at this point, it may be fair to wonder as to whether or not he can be a starter. At this point, for Davis to make a real impact upon the Royals, it appears as though it will be as a reliever.