Adding another arm into the Spring Training mix seemed all but inevitable for the Kansas City Royals, but simply re-signing Bruce Chen didn’t appear to be the move that most of the team’s fan base was pulling for. Kansas City’s been discussed as an option for Ervin Santana in recent days, while Ubaldo Jimenez and Bronson Arroyo both also remain available. Instead the team’s elected to bring back Chen on a one year deal, according to Ken Rosenthal at FOX Sports.
CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman later added the contract details. Chen will receive $3.25 Million for the coming season, with the possibility of an additional $1.25 Million in performance bonuses. There is a mutual option for 2015 included, that could be worth $5.5 Million or a $1 Million buyout.
The 36 year old left-hander has quietly carved out a lengthy career, entering his 16th season in the Major Leagues. He’s spent the past five of those with the Royals – totaling a 45-39 record, 4.32 ERA, and 1.341 WHIP across 670.1 IP. This past season he went 9-4 in 34 appearances (15 starts), with a 3.27 ERA and 1.182 WHIP. Out of the bullpen his ERA on the year was nearly a full run lower (2.41 vs. 3.61 as a starter).
Kansas City did previously sign Jason Vargas this offseason, though he largely steps into the hole created when Santana hit free agency. It’d be tough to consider that an upgrade, suggesting that the Royals best addition to their starting rotation thus far has been the expected healthy return of Danny Duffy. Add in James Shields, Jeremy Guthrie, and Wade Davis and it’s tough to project where Chen will exactly fit into the mix once the season begins. His versatility is being able to work from the bullpen does offer some value here, but the question still remains why the team wouldn’t make a move to bring in one of the bigger named options instead.
As Ben Nielson at KC Kingdom points out, the team could potentially look to move one of their more costlier arms in either Davis or Luke Hochevar (who’s already been pushed out of the rotation discussion – read: he’s replaceable) in order to make room for another pitching addition. Re-signing Santana (whom the team is believed to have an offer out to) would certainly offer a boost heading into Spring Training. Davis is slated to earn $4.8 Million this season, but his contract does contain three team options that could cover the 2015-2017 seasons. Hochevar will make $5.21 Million before becoming a free agent at season’s end.