Greg “Gorken” Smith, KC SportsNation
Chen’s deal is for $3.25 million in 2014 plus a $1 million buyout and a $5.5 million mutual option for 2015 with $1.25 million in performance-based bonuses.
In five years with the Royals, Bruce Chen owns a 45-39 record with a 4.32 ERA over 670⅓ innings. He is so good at being average. “Average” is pretty much exactly what a competitive MLB team wants its 4th and/or 5th starting pitcher to be. If this signing means that we won’t have to witness Hochevar or Wade Davis in the rotation again, it’s okay. Let Hoch flourish in the pen, where he’s shown the ability to do so. Where I have a problem with this move is, didn’t the Royals just commit four years, and $32 million to a younger version of Chen in Jason Vargas? Who needs two guys like this?
What I’d have liked to see, rather than dropping all this cash into mediocrity, is re-signing Ervin Santana or even going after Ubaldo Jimenez instead. Starting pitchers that have displayed front of the rotation ability. With the 8 million in Vargas, $4.25 million in Chen and the $5.21 (plus $400,000 in incentives) to Hochevar, we have about $17.5 million dollars locked up in three guys I couldn’t really care less about. Would it have absurd to offer Santana $12-16 million annually over a 3-4 year deal? Say 4 years, for $55 million? Something fairly similar to what Matt Garza received from the Milwaukee Brewers. I think given how the free agent pitching market has played out, that could have been done. Sure, Santana is far from any sort of guaranteed success. No pitcher is a sure bet though. Not even the best of the best. Any arm can get hurt.
With these moves, the rotation projects as: Shields, Vargas, Guthrie, Chen, and Duffy with Hochevar in the bullpen. How would Shields, Santana, Guthrie, Duffy and Ventura look with Louis Coleman (SOOOO underappreciated, and now a lock to be in AAA) in the pen? Sure, maybe Ventura isn’t ready. Maybe Duffy isn’t fully recovered and ready to go, too. I would have liked to have been able to find out. Now, Santana is pretty much a dream only. They’ve put 3, and 4, and 5 million into too many meh places. The best clubs in small markets can and do, fill the holes from within their farm system. Let the young guys sink or swim! They were good enough to use in September, when pushing for a Wild Card spot.
I don’t hate the build of this team. I just don’t think we can be even as successful, in terms of wins and losses as last year (86-76). The offense should be improved, even if only slightly. Butler has to be better. Hosmer should be able to put it together for the FULL year. Aoki and Infante can’t hurt us vs. their counterparts from a year ago. The pitching, however, can probably only go backwards. Call me a pessimist. I’m called that often when it comes to the Royals. They’ve conditioned me that way.
The Royals team ERA of 3.45 (No. 1 in the American League in 2013) was fifth best in franchise history, and best since 1978 (3.44). The Royals 601 runs allowed was the third fewest in franchise history (excluding strike shortened seasons in ’81 and ’94) and best since 1972 (545). The Royals pitchers struck out a FRANCHISE RECORD, 1208 batters in 2013. The Royals pitchers gave up only 155 home runs in 2013, their best effort there since 1995 (142). They were regularly serving up into the 200’s in the early 2000’s. The Royals pitchers only walked 469 batters in 2013, their best total since 1996 (460). I think you get the point. It’s a safe bet to presume the pitching, and most likely their win total, will take a step back, especially without a legitimate #2 starter.