Bruce Chen signed a one-year contract with the Kansas City Royals, rejoining the team for sixth year. Photo by Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Bruce Chen rejoins Kansas City Royals for sixth year

Like dipping into a greasy, salty bag of potato chips, the Kansas City Royals just can’t help themselves when it comes to signing Bruce Chen to their roster.

The Kansas City Star reported today that left handed pitcher Chen confirmed in a text message to the paper that he will be returning to the Kansas City Royals in 2014 after signing a guaranteed one-year contract worth $4.25 million.
Speculation in recent days had swirled around whether or not the Royals would resign Ervin Santana, or if there was a possibility of signing A.J. Burnett. The signing of Japanese star Masahiro Tanaka by the New York Yankees was supposed to be the burst in the dam that opened up the signing of what some called “second tier” free agent pitchers such as Burnett, Santana, Matt Garza and the like. Garza was the first high-profile free agent to sign after Tanaka when he penned a 4-year, $54 million deal with the Milwaukee Brewers.
Who knew that the next domino to fall would be none other that Bruce Chen. What this signifies for the Royals has yet to be seen.
Chen was used as a starter and reliever for the Royals last year. As a reliever, he appeared in 19 games tossing 33.2 innings with a 2.41 earned run average. As a starter, he appeared in 15 games tossing 87.1 innings with a 3.61 ERA.
When Chen was good, he was very good. When he was bad, he was very bad. In his overall 9-4 record, he had 1.50 ERA in his wins and 11.29 ERA in his losses. Fortunately, for the Royals, he was good twice as many times as he was bad.
And that’s one of the things that has made Chen so appealing to the Royals since he joined them in 2009. In 5 years with the Royals, he owns a 45-39 record with a 4.32 ERA. He is the only Royals pitcher who has been with the team for the duration of that 5-year span that has a winning record.
At this point, the Royals know what they get with Chen. He’s a crafty lefty that somehow manages to win a little more than he loses. He also is inexpensive.
It’s unlikely that Chen is slated to fill a starting spot. James Shields, Jason Vargas and Jeremy Guthrie are locks. Danny Duffy, Wade Davis, Yordano Ventura and even Luke Hochevar are all mentioned for the fourth and fifth spots.
It’s difficult to see Chen slipping into one of those spots. A reverse scenario vs. last year makes it possible, however. Last year, Chen relieved to begin the season to save on his arm, then started in the latter part of the season. This year, Chen could start at the beginning of the season then make way for someone like Ventura or Kyle Zimmer after either has gained seasoning in the minors during the beginning of the year.
In whatever role Chen plays, the Royals know what they will get, and know they can count on his versatility.

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  • Royals_Fan

    Well that’s $4M that isn’t going to Santana, which means we aren’t signing Santana or Burnett…or anyone else. This might have been the last guy we sign this offseason now. So does this mean Chen is competing for the #5 spot now too?

    • jessanders

      It breaks down like this:

      Chen, Guthrie, Vargas, Hoch, Davis, Bonifacio combine to make 32.75 million in guaranteed money this season.

      That much money would allow the Royals to sign both Santana and Jimenez, or possibly one of those two and Burnett (that would require back-loading their contract and giving Burnett more up front, which is usually appealing to a player, especially aging players).

      You would then have better pitchers for both Guthrie and Vargas, have to fill in two (or three) bullpen spots, and call up Ciriaco or Colon to be the utility guy at ML minimum.

      This would give us a 1-2-3 punch of Shields, Jimenez and Santana (or, preferably, Burnett in as one of Santana and Jimenez). Then, next year after Shields leaves, we have Jimenez, Santana, Duffy, Ventura, and Zimmer (or another FA if we want to let Zimmer stew in the minors for another season).

      As far as the rotation goes, that gives us a 3-4 year window to compete, assuming some of the young guns figure it out. If they don’t, then we won’t compete anyways.

      That… THAT is what makes this so sick.

      • jimfetterolf

        Assuming any of those are interested in pitching for the Royals. Chen’s signing tells me that Santana told Moore that he’s not coming back. This isn’t fantasy, FAs choose which offers to accept.

        • Royals_Fan

          Completely agree. If we were going to sign Santana, Barnett or any other FA SP we wouldn’t spend $4.25M on Chen. To be honest, I like Chen, but I thought the Vargas signing would be his replacement. Out of the pitching we have, I feel like a rotation of Shields, Vargas, Guthrie, Duffy, Chen gives us the best chance to win. Not the most ideal but I think it works. Later this year maybe find a way to get Ventura involved but not to start the year. Maybe Ventura joins the team after the ASB and we trade away a SP or relieve Chen if he starts to struggle.

          • jimfetterolf

            I think everyone thought Vargas was a younger Chen, but Big Dave and I have kicked around the Return of Chen! for a few weeks now, thinking that Bruce was Dayton Moore’s security blanket for if he couldn’t get Santana back.

            On your rotation, I think I’ld flip Duffy and Vargas. I like Duffy at #2. About the middle of June, if Ventura is dominating in Omaha, Guthrie is most likely to be traded, I think. Or just Chen back to the ‘pen. Bruce Chen does offer flexibility in that regard.

          • Royals_Fan

            I don’t know if they would trade Guthrie. He’s a big time innings eater and granted he did give up a lot of HRs last year, he always gives you a chance to win.

            I honestly see them trading a big name. Maybe Butler since he’s in his last year on his contract and he could bring in a lot of pitching prospects or other prospects and a player to take his spot on the DH. Moore was talking about the DH spot becoming a place for position players to take a fielding break but keeping the bat in the line up. As long as we have Butler that idea will never happen.

          • jimfetterolf

            Just thinking in terms of pitchers. I expect Billy to have a really good year and not sure he’ll return much in the way of prospects. But who knows, he’ld be happy in Baltimore, Boston, or Toronto with short fences.

          • Royals_Fan

            That what I was thinking and if Papi doesn’t get his contract for Boston they would be looking for a replacement. Even if we don’t get anything huge in return we should be fine. If we trade Butler and not Guthrie, and Shields does leave like people are saying then we can only hope Zimmer is ready by next year. Ventura, Duffy, Zimmer, Vargas and Guthrie isn’t ideal, but it could work. Especially with the top 3 pitchers being young.

  • Larry Devore

    Just say no to Davis as a starter. Hand the ball to Chen as the 4th starter

  • moretrouble

    I like this signing. Chen fits well into the swingman role and he throws different from their hard throwers in the pen. It’s not the big name signing fans want, but it works.

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