It had been hoped by many fans of the Royals that they would resign a certain pitcher who had become a free agent after last season. A certain pitcher that could help stabilize the rotation, and whose excellent performance last year was important as the Royals attempted to remain within striking distance of the Wild Card. While Ervin Santana remains in free agent limbo, the Royals did sign another pitcher who fits the above description in Bruce Chen.
Chen returning may not generate the same type of excitement that Santana would have, but this was a solid move by both sides. Chen made his desire to remain a Royal know from the start of free agency, and his desire has been fulfilled. Now, Chen and the Royals have agreed to terms on a one year contract that guarantees $4.25 Million, and includes a mutual option for the 2015 season. The contract also effectively gives Chen a no-trade clause, as he will be a ‘ten and five’ player in the middle of May.
Bruce Chen entirely revitalized his career with the Royals, producing a 44-33 record with a 4.17 ERA in the past four seasons after struggling upon being recalled in 2009. He has been solid as both a starter and a reliever during his time in Kansas City, and has been almost exactly as effective against right handed and left handed hitters. Over his career, Chen has allowed a .774 OPS against righties, and a .798 OPS to lefties.
That versatility allows Chen to be the ultimate insurance policy for the Royals. He may not be expected to be a part of the rotation coming out of Spring Training, but Chen was not a part of the plans last year either. However, due to the ineffectiveness of other starters, Chen ended up making 15 starts in 2013 anyway. If Wade Davis or Luke Hochevar win one of the spots in the rotation out of Spring Training this year, it is not a lock that they finish the season in that role.
Another possibility that opens up with the resigning of Bruce Chen is a trade of either Davis or Hochevar. All three players are making roughly the same amount this season, and it simply does not make any sense for the Royals to carry three pitchers that all fill the same long relief/spot starter role. The Royals know what they have with Chen – a crafty lefty who may be doing his best to turn into a Panamanian version of Jamie Moyer. Meanwhile, Davis and Hochevar may be thought of as having upside, allowing the Royals to part with them for pieces that could help in the future.
No, Bruce Chen is not the most exciting signing that the Royals could have made. That does not mean, however, that the signing was not a good one (Unless of course, you ascribe to Hunter’s line of thinking). Much like last season, Chen will provide a viable Plan B should the need arise.