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.