Bruce Chen was seemingly all but gone. He was a free agent, and when the Royals signed Jason Vargas, it seemed as though his spot in the rotation was filled. All the Royals needed now was a starter to fill in for Ervin Santana, to fill the role as the second starter in the rotation. However, after signing Omar Infante, the Royals may finally be up against their payroll limit, leaving Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura as the expected pieces to fill out the rotation.
Yes, the Royals front office has said this before this offseason. In fact, they said that they were against their payroll limit before signing Infante, so such statements may just be nothing more than posturing. However, the Royals could still use a veteran starter/long reliever should Duffy and/or Ventura falter. While Wade Davis or Luke Hochevar would seemingly fit that role, both pitchers have fared much better as relievers than they have in the rotation. Taking either pitcher out of a place where they have been successful is likely not the answer.
So, where does this leave the Royals? Likely looking in free agency for a cost effective option to step in and be that swingman in the bullpen should he be needed. Lo and behold, it just so happens that there is someone who has not only filled that role in the past, but has an intimate knowledge of Kansas City and the Royals. Could this mean a return for Bruce Chen?
Chen would seemingly fit the profile of what the Royals would be looking for perfectly. Not only would Chen be able to fill the role of a sixth starter and long reliever perfectly, but he also would likely not cost much. With the Royals potentially at their payroll limit, Chen could become an option to return.
Is Bruce Chen the ideal pitcher for the Royals to plug into their starting rotation? Probably not, because in a perfect world, they would bring back Santana or sign Matt Garza or Ubaldo Jimenez. However, Chen would provide the type of insurance the Royals would need if Ventura or Duffy are not able to be effective, while keeping Davis and Hochevar in the bullpen. It could be that Chen finds his way back to Kansas City.