Bruce Chen agreed to a 2-year deal worth at least $9 million, plus the possibility of $2 million more in incentives, with a base salary of $4.5 million each year with the Kansas City Royals.
“Bruce has been our most consistent pitcher over the last two years,” Royals general manager Dayton Moore said. “He’s someone we count on — for not only his leadership, but his ability to be a consistent performer in our rotation.”
The deal will be finalized when Chen, 34, returns from Panama to take a physical examination next week.
With the acquisition of Jonathan Sanchez from the Giants for Melky Carbrera, Chen, Sanchez, Luke Hochevar, Danny Duffy and Felipe Paulino appear to be the Royals 5-man rotation with All-Star Aaron Crow, Pacific Coast Pitcher of the Year Luis Mendoza – who was dominant in two starts at the end of the season – Sean O’Sullivan, Mike Montgomery, Vin Mazzaro, Nate Adcock and Everett Teaford as other fringe candidates for the rotation.
That’s if they are done looking. Last week Roy Oswalt’s agent met with the Royals.
“We’ll continue to look,” Moore said. “We just need to continue to look for ways to improve our team.”
This marks the fourth time that the Royals have signed Chen as a free agent. After he underwent Tommy John surgery that kept him out for the 2008 season, the Royals signed him to a Minor League deal for 2009 and he made it back to the Majors.
Then, quite surprisingly, he emerged as the Royals’ top winner in both 2010 and ’11, with records of 12-7 and 12-8, respectively. This year, he posted a 3.77 ERA in 25 starts. He was especially effective against American League Central rivals, with an 8-3 record and a 2.47 ERA in 14 starts.
Since joining the Royals’ rotation on May 30, 2010, Chen has a 23-15 record and a 4.00 ERA in 48 starts. He’s the team’s first left-hander to win 12 or more games in back-to-back seasons since Charlie Leibrandt did it in four straight seasons (1985-88).
“Bruce is a tremendous leader, he’s very prepared, he’s a very hard worker,” Moore said. “He’s very deserving of what has occurred over the past couple of years, and we look forward to having him continue to succeed.”
Chen was voted the Bruce Rice Pitcher of the Year Award for 2011 by the Kansas City baseball writers. His strong finish included a 6-3 record and 2.93 ERA in his last 10 starts, holding opponents to a .218 average.
“I do believe the Royals are a team that can be a contender. But it’s not going to be easy, it’s not going to be something that we’re going to roll out of bed and beat up on everyone,” Chen said. “We’re going to have to work very hard. We’re going to have to work harder or want it more than the next team in our division.”
In other news, the Royals announced updates to the club’s alternate home and primary road uniforms for the 2012 season. In addition to the changes described below, every version of the uniform jerseys will feature the 2012 All-Star Game patch on the right sleeve. The updated uniforms were unveiled today at an event Kauffman Stadium featuring hitting coach Kevin Seitzer and 2011 All-Star pitcher Aaron Crow.
Changes to the alternate home “powder blue” uniforms:
• Jersey will feature a new bolder powder blue color that better represents the original powder blue color of our historic past.
• “Royals” script on the front of the jersey has been changed to white with blue outline and the number on the front of the jersey is now blue with white outline.
• Standard Royals blue KC cap will be worn with the new alternate jersey.
Changes to the primary road grey uniforms:
• Grey color fabric has been changed to a deeper looking blue/grey tonal quality that will enhance the other colors featured in the uniform.
• The “Kansas City” script has been retooled to a more stylized font that now is in the same family as our traditional “Royals” script font.
• The piping on both the jersey and pants is now a dual blue and white color scheme.