After Greg Holland’s successful return, the KC Royals welcome back another former bullpen star.
The KC Royals, a club that seems to find pitching reclamation projects particularly difficult to avoid, took on another one Wednesday. In a late morning announcement, the Royals revealed they’ve agreed to bring back former star closer Wade Davis.
Davis returns after a four-season absence. Kansas City traded him to the Cubs for outfielder and designated hitter Jorge Soler after the 2016 campaign.
While Soler took a couple of years to truly settle in with the Royals, Davis made an immediate impact in Chicago, going 4-2 with a 2.30 ERA and 32 saves in 59 appearances. He moved on to Colorado in 2019; despite leading the National League in saves with 43, his ERA almost doubled (4.13). Any thoughts that he might be in decline were confirmed in 2019 when he suffered a miserable 1-6, 8.65 season and lost his role as the Rockies’ closer.
Last year wasn’t any better for the three-time All-Star. Plagued by injury, he pitched just five times and gave up 10 runs in 4.1 innings. After Colorado released him in the last week of the campaign, there were no strong signs of imminent offers for 2021 until Kansas City announced his return Wednesday.
Obviously, the Royals sees something in Davis that makes the club optimistic about his future. Whether their latest low risk, high potential move ultimately pays dividends remains to be seen, but it will prove successful if the 35-year old righthander approaches the form he displayed after coming to Kansas City with James Shields in the team’s famous December 2012 trade with Tampa Bay. Although Shields was the main target, Davis, after working primarily as a starter in 2013, made a wildly successful transition to the bullpen in 2014.
He became an essential component of “H-D-H,” the stunningly effective bullpen threesome of Kelvin Herrera, Davis and Greg Holland that virtually guaranteed a win in any game the Royals led after six innings. Davis finished 9-2 with a minuscule 1.00 ERA. He continued in that role in 2015 until an injury to Holland forced him into the closer role; he saved 17 games, lowered his ERA to 0.94, and secured the final out of KC’s World Series championship.
Hovering over Davis will be the right shoulder injury that sidelined him for much of 2020’s short season. The KC Royals are clearly banking on his full recovery, but the proof will be in the results when spring training begins next month. A successful return and reunion with Holland, who re-signed with Kansas City in December, will make an already-improved bullpen even better.
But if Davis’ days are done, the Royals won’t have suffered. The Athletic’s Alec Lewis reports that Davis’ deal won’t break the club’s bank even if he makes the big league roster:
That General Manager Dayton Moore, long a proponent of giving down-trodden pitchers another chance, has engineered another signing designed to salvage a once superb hurler isn’t surprising. Whether the venture matches the excellent results achieved last season by Holland and Trevor Rosenthal remains to be seen.
Another former star is coming back to Kansas City. Let’s hope the KC Royals’ bet on Wade Davis is a good one.