Sep 13, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Bruce Chen (52) pitches in the first inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Bringing Back Bruce Chen

Sep 18, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals relief pitcher Bruce Chen (52) fields a ground ball and throws to first base in the first inning of the game against the Cleveland Indians at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

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.

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  • Brian J.

    This will be the opening-day rotation

    E. Santana

    • Chad Woelk

      I agree. Royals will bring back Santana on a 2-3 year deal. You can tell
      just by his twitter account how much he enjoys him time in KC. Meet in
      the middle and get the job done. Without Santana, this team will miss
      the playoffs.

      • jimfetterolf

        Wih Santana the team will miss Ventura. Only way I bring Santana back is on a short deal and trade him at ASB. We have too much talent to sign expensive road blocks.

  • jimfetterolf

    Chen on a one-year contract is much preferable to Arroyo or others, but having a seventh pitcher would cost Jarrod Dyson due to roster limits. I like Chen, would like to have him, but with a BP of Holland, Hochevar, Davis, Herrera, Crow, and Collins we’re full if we keep a 5th OF. Even if Dyson is traded, do we want Chen or Coleman/Joseph with options in the 7-slot?

    • Dave Hill

      To me, it comes down to whether or not the Royals feel that Davis is a true insurance policy should either Duffy or Ventura not be able to handle the rotation at this point. They know Chen can be that player, but can Davis?

      • jimfetterolf

        Chen had a great year last year that was probably an outlier. Not sure the royals or anyone else expects Chen to repeat that year. If they choose to keep Maxwell and Dyson, Hoch and Davis will have to be that swing man in a six man rotation.

        • Dave Hill

          I agree that 2013 was an outlier, unless he truly is morphing into Jamie Moyer. To me, Hochevar and Davis are much better in the bullpen – a relief role seems to suit both much better than starting.

          If Chen is still out there at the end of January/beginning of February, it wouldn’t surprise me if they extend him an offer to come back. I really think that they trade either Maxwell or Dyson, possibly along with one of their relievers, to bring back a prospect or two.

          • jimfetterolf

            Quite possible. I think Royals would like a spot for Louis Coleman and maybe Donnie Joseph and need a couple of guys in the bullpen with options so they can do the freeway express as in years past. Just been some talk of a six man ‘pen and I actually kind of like it. Problem is I’m not sure Collins and Crow have options and the back end four aren’t going down, two of them recent starters capable of a hundred innings out of the ‘pen if needed in two or more inning appearances.

    • moretrouble

      A bullpen of six severely limits a manager’s late inning options. I picked a late September series last year (against the Indians) as an example: Sept. 16th – 3 relievers used; Sept. 17th – 5 relievers used; Sept. 18th – 5 relievers used. Owing to the fact that relievers cannot pitch every day, the seventh man becomes important, especially if he is a lefty.

      If a team wanted to carry an 11 man staff, they’d be better off with a four man rotation and a seven man bullpen. In a four man rotation, team off days can be used (but not always) to set the rotation back a day for extra rest. Teams commonly do this in April when so many off days eliminate the need for a fifth starter. If you asked starters which they would prefer, many would choose a four man because they throw a bullpen on the third day off in a five man rotation anyway.

      However KC constitutes their bullpen this season, they would be wise to include two lefties out there.

      • jimfetterolf

        That does make a good point, but do you use Chen in last year’s role or Donnie Joseph on the freeway express? And how much will we miss Dyson if Cain goes down? There is no useful OF depth in Omaha. Without Dyson, Bonifacio moves to center and Colon is called up as UIF I guess.

        • moretrouble

          I believe they’ll keep two lefties in the pen; besides Collins, it could be Chen. I do not believe they would be looking at Chen as a rotation guy; maybe a long man/spot starter – sort of a swingman role. But, there are others in the system who could fill that role, too.

          My guess is that CF will look much the same this season as last year – Cain and Dyson. I believe KC is sacrificing defense by playing Aoki or Bonifacio in CF; Maxwell, too. Not trying to diminish their talent; they aren’t really CFer’s.

          But, I’m not sure the front office knows what it wants to do yet. Moore and Yost may figure all this out at spring training – watch everyone play for a few weeks before making a decision.

          • jimfetterolf

            I’m assuming Maxwell is a lock as a RH power bat who can play three positions in a pinch. He’s the guy who can give Gordon a break against tough lefties and a pinch hitter off the bench. Main reason for even considering a six-man ‘pen is to keep both Dyson and Maxwell with the knowledge that there’s nothing in Omaha beyond Colon replacing Bonifacio as UIF.

          • moretrouble

            Beltran was the power RH bat KC really wanted. When that didn’t work out, Dayton built the line-up a different way. Gordon became the bat in the middle and they addressed a RH bat off the bench with Valencia.

            Fans have been saying Valencia is likely to platoon with Moustakas, but the Royals haven’t said that. Valencia can be used in a number of ways. And, it allows KC to keep Dyson, who gives them lots of options with speed and defense. In other words, I think Valencia makes Maxwell expendable.

            But, before Dayton and Ned commit to that, I think they want to see everyone in spring training, try a lot of different combinations, etc. I don’t think they’ve made any decisions yet.

          • jimfetterolf

            Mo’, I think the numbers say platoon. Valencia is very solid against LHP and I think after two years that Moose will have a short leash and if he can’t hit righties either he’ll go to Omaha with Bonifacio platooning with Valencia and Colon coming up as UIF. Only reason to trade a valuable player in Lough for a bench bat is the platoon and getting Valencia tells me that Dayton Moore thinks he has a deep playoff team this year. Spring training will tell us a lot.


    I think one of Chen or Santana needs to come back if this organization is serious about winning. Throwing Duffy and Ventura out as regular starters is going to be an issue at some point. One will be hurt or struggling to get past the early innings. We don’t need Hoch and Davis, so I think we should trade one to save some money and then use that brief surplus on Chen. As noted, he’s a nice insurance policy for the role of 5th starter and he doubles as a quality long man. Even if he doesn’t reproduce last years numbers, he’s an affordable in-house option.