One of the greatest KC Royals relievers bids farewell

(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

When Wade Davis came back to the KC Royals in 2021, he was a shadow of his former self.

In the 42.2 innings he pitched this season, he had an excessive 6.75 ERA and a 1.477 WHIP. He was arguably one of the weaker spots in the bullpen.

Davis’ performance frustrated fans who remembered his glory days. Maybe even Davis knew those days had come to end—he announced his retirement late this morning.

Davis, 36, is known mainly for the time he spent with the Royals. He was a two-time Royal All-Star (he also made the National League All-Star team with the Cubs) and vital Kansas City bullpen component for three solid seasons before being traded to the Cubs for Jorge Soler after the 2016 campaign.

Wade Davis experienced many highs and lows before coming to the KC Royals.

Davis was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in the third round of the 2004 amateur draft and spent five seasons and part of a sixth in the minor leagues before making his major league debut in 2009. His 12-10 record, 4.07 ERA record in 2010 earned him a fourth place finish in the American League Rookie of the Year voting.

The Rays moved Davis to the bullpen for the entire 2012 season. He thrived there, posting a 3-0 record, 2.43 ERA, and 87 strikeouts in 70.1 innings.

Wade Davis’ first stint with the KC Royals came via a blockbuster trade.

December 9, 2012 is a date many KC Royals fans should be familiar with. It’s the day the Royals made their first blockbuster trade in years, one that showed the rest of the league they were soon going to be in contention again. The club traded Wil Meyers, Jake Odorizzi, Mike Montgomery and Patrick Leonard to Tampa Bay Ray for James Shields and Davis.

Davis began his Kansas City career in 2013 as a starter, but struggled in that role. He had a 6-10 record, 5.67 ERA, and 1.76 WHIP through August when the Royals switched him to their bullpen.

Despite his 5.32 ERA for the entire season, Davis showed the bullpen might prove to be his best baseball home—he posted a stingy 0.90 ERA and an 0.94 WHIP out of the pen in September. Although it was a small sample size (10 innings), that brief stint in the bullpen opened up the Royals’ eyes.

Davis proved in 2014 that the previous September was no fluke. He posted a 9-2 record, 1.00 ERA, 13.6 SO9, and a 0.85 WHIP, and didn’t give up any home runs in 72 innings. His dominance carried into the postseason, where he had a 0.63 ERA and 20 strikeouts.

Wade Davis becomes an All-Star and a KC Royals World Series champion.

The 2015 season was arguably Davis’ magnum opus as a reliever.

He had an 8-1 record, 0.94 ERA, 0.79 WHIP, and 1.51 OBA in 69 appearances. He gave up only three homers. And he moved from his setup role to closer in September when Greg Holland went down with the injury that led to Tommy John surgery.

And Davis was magnificent in the postseason—he didn’t give up any runs, converted all four of his save opportunities, won an American League Championship series game, and struck out 18 in 10.1 innings. And he unforgettably got the last out of the fifth and deciding game of the World Series to secure Kansas City’s second Series title:

Wade Davis’ career after the World Series and his return to the KC Royals.

With Holland gone, Davis continued his role as Kansas City’s closer in 2016. He saved 27 games, posted a 1.87 ERA and 47 strikeouts in 43.1 innings, and made the All-Star team for the second straight season. Nevertheless, the Royals traded him to the Cubs for 2021 World Series hero Jorge Soler. 

Davis did well with his new team. He was the only Cub selected for the 2017 All-Star game, had a 2.30 ERA, and set a club record with 27 straight saves through August.

After the season, Davis signed a three-year, $52 million deal with the Colorado Rockies. Whether it was the Rockies’ hitter-friendly home ballpark or something else, Davis had a rocky three-year stint with Colorado, accumulating a 6.49 ERA and 1.433 WHIP. He did save 43 games in 2018, but only 17 across his other two campaigns with the Rockies.

Davis made his return to Kansas City when he signed a minor league contract last January. He saved KC’s Opening Day win but only one game after that, and was 0-3 with a 6.75 ERA. He became a free agent following the season before announcing his retirement earlier today.

Although Davis had ups and downs throughout his career, he’ll always be remembered as one of the solid bullpen anchors that helped the Royals have one of the best bullpens in major league history.

Now, fans can repeat broadcaster Rex Hudler’s words one more time: “Wader, check please.”

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Wade Davis announced his retirement from baseball today. He was one of the great Royal relievers.