The Kansas City Royals are going to be rebuilding. During that time they are going to be looking to go back to what made the successful in the recent past. Despite the team rebuilding, the Royals need to bolster the bullpen this off-season and Luke Hochevar seems to be a perfect fit.
Dayton Moore has become increasingly good at is finding cheap pitchers that he is able to convert to the bullpen. In 2013, Moore showed that you can make a dominate bullpen in multiple ways. He converted failed starters and players returning from injuries to create his teams bullpen. By doing this, he was able to make his dominate bullpens with minimal costs.
Over the last five years, Moore has made it a necessary component to a successful team. After going to two World Series, many teams have started replicating the Royals strategy.
One reclamation project that should be, and is, on the Royals radar is old friend Luke Hochevar.
The Beginning Struggles of Luke Hochevar:
It is kind of a funny situation we are in. When the Royals drafted him Number One overall in the 2006 MLB draft and were hoping he was a “can’t miss” pitcher. Unfortunately, he never adjusted to become that type of pitcher.
Making his MLB debut in 2007, Hochevar never lived up to expectations. From 2007-2012 he posted a 5.44 ERA and a 38-59 record. Needless to say, the Royals did not get the type of pitcher they were hoping for.
Everyone wanted the Royals to move on. But this is where the Royals showed the beginnings of a trend that would lead to quick success.
The Rise of Luke Hochevar:
The Royals made the unpopular choice to keep Hochevar. However, instead of continuing the failing trend of making him a starter, they transitioned him to the bullpen.
In his first year coming out of the bullpen, Hochevar showed immediate success. By the end of the year, he had posted an eye popping 1.92 ERA over 52 appearances and 70.1 innings. The success the Royals had envisioned for Hochevar finally came to fruition.
Unfortunately, he felt that nagging pain in his throwing elbow that eventually lead to Tommy John Surgery. But due to his success in 2013, fans had a new found hope for him when he came back from injury.
When he came back a year later, he never regained that same dominance he had in 2013. His 3.78 ERA over the next two years showed success, but not the same level of success. Unfortunately, again, he fell victim to another season ending injury in 2016. He had thoracic outlet syndrome surgery in July, which seemed fitting for the type of year the Royals were having. The injury and recovery time resulted in Hochevar missing the rest of the 2016 season as well as the entire 2017 season.
The Case for Hochevar:
After seeing the success Moore has had bringing in pitcher coming off injury, what better pitcher to take a chance on then Hochevar? The Royals are seemingly going to be the front-runners to bring him back simply because they never gave up on him. Also, not many teams are ready to fully adopt the “Royal Way” of building a bullpen and sign a pitching coming off a significant injury, so many teams won’t consider him an option. Moore has shown that he is willing to take that risk.
Hochevar is a player that if familiar with the organization. He knows what it is like to fail, be on a team that seemingly stands no chance in every game, and then bounce back to have success and win a World Series. If the Royals are looking for a pitcher that can mentor young players, what better mentor for them to listen and learn from?
The Royals know he can be successful coming from the bullpen. The Royals also know that due to being out of baseball as long as he has been that he will have to be on a “prove it” type deal. This means the team can sign him to a very club friendly deal. Again, find a pitcher that fits the Royals “project pitchers” history better.
The biggest hurdle will be whether or not he wants to come back. After being out for a year and half, he will be 34 years old and making a comeback. He very well could decide that two shoulder surgeries is enough to hang the cleats up. That seems to be the only challenging bridge to cross in the attempt to bring him back to Kansas City.
Bringing Hoch back would be a great move by Moore. He is a low risk/high reward type player that will cost significantly less than any other bullpen arm on the market. He knows the team and organization, and would be a great mentor. MLB Royals beat writer, Jeffery Flanegan, reported during one of his mail bags sessions…
"“Royals GM Dayton Moore said during the Winter Meetings that he hadn’t recently spoken to Hochevar about a possible reunion…the Royals would have interest in bringing him back.”"
At the end of the day, Kansas City would welcome Luke Hochevar back. Even though we have been through some serious downs, and some extremely high ups, we all have a special place in our hearts for Hoch.