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What on earth are the Royals doing now?

Feb 1, 2014, 4:12 PM EDT

Bruce Chen AP

When the Royals re-signed Bruce Chen to a one-year, $4.25 million contract this week, it was generally met with tepid approval. One could argue that he’s 90 percent of the pitcher Jason Vargas is for half of the salary and one-quarter the commitment. So, that’s not bad.

But then came the fallout.

First, it was made clear by the team that Chen is being handed the fourth spot in the rotation that seemed to belong to Danny Duffy, who returned from Tommy John surgery to post a 1.85 ERA in five starts last season. Now it’s being advertised that Duffy, Luke Hochevar, Wade Davis, top prospect Yordano Ventura and the newly signed Brad Penny are all competing for the fifth spot.

Second, versatile speedster Emilio Bonifacio, who just signed a non-guaranteed $3.55 million contract, was designated for assignment to make room for Chen. So, essentially, he’s being dumped to fit Chen on the payroll.

Bonifacio will almost surely be traded. That might have been for the best anyway, considering that the outfield is five deep without him and he wasn’t in line for a lot of playing time behind the newly signed Omar Infante at second base. Still, if anyone was willing to give up anything of significance for Bonifacio, the deal would have happened already. After all, he’s been on the block since at least the winter meetings. The Royals won’t get stuck with his salary, but they’re not likely to get much of a prospect in return.

Also, shedding Bonifacio does nothing to alleviate the Royals’ bench logjam. He’s going to have to be replaced on the roster by another backup middle infielder, which probably means Pedro Ciriaco now makes the team. Unless someone gets hurt this spring, there’s still going to be room for just two from the group of Justin Maxwell, Jarrod Dyson and Danny Valencia, and since all of those guys are out of options, it’s not like they’ll just be able to stash one in Triple-A.

Plus, the pitching staff is more crowded than ever. Duffy and Ventura are both candidates to step up and become the Royals’ second best starter behind James Shields, but it’s possible neither will make the staff out of spring training. That’s because Hochevar ($5.2 million) and Davis ($4.8 million) are the sixth and eighth highest-paid players on the Royals, respectively. If those two were making half as much, the Royals wouldn’t try to justify the salaries by giving them yet another opportunity to start when both are clearly so much more valuable out of the pen. Both would likely be perfectly respectable closers given the chance. But that chance won’t come in Kansas City with Greg Holland in town.

On the one hand, all of this looks like a good problem to have. Last year, the Royals’ pen was so good that there just wasn’t enough for Aaron Crow, Tim Collins and Louis Coleman to do. Coleman, for instance, spent most of the season in the minors, yet had a 0.61 ERA in 29 2/3 innings when he was called on.

On the other hand, it’s only a good problem to have if the Royals make the most of it. The Royals certainly didn’t while giving 39 starts to Davis and Luis Mendoza last year. If they open this season with Duffy in the rotation and Hochevar and Davis working in setup roles, then they’ll be in pretty good shape. If they instead have Davis starting and Duffy and Ventura in Triple-A, it’d be a bad sign.

  1. angrytwitterguy - Feb 1, 2014 at 4:19 PM

    Moore is a clown, is there any Royal fans still drinking his kool-aid?

    • gdobs227 - Feb 1, 2014 at 4:29 PM

      I don’t know. Are there any?

      • angrytwitterguy - Feb 1, 2014 at 4:33 PM

        Hopefully the gig is up for them and they realize they need a purge of the entire organisation.

        Go hire LaRussa as Team Prez and let him clean house.

  2. doctorofsmuganomics - Feb 1, 2014 at 4:46 PM

    Davis seemed to be better suited for the bullpen, Luke Hoch will make me punch a patient and I’d be surprised of Penny makes opening day.

    So, in my humble doctor opinion the number five rotation spot would come down to Ventura and Duffy

    Go Duffy go!

    • unclemosesgreen - Feb 2, 2014 at 5:29 PM

      Ventura needs more seasoning, and I’m not talking about Billy Butler’s Hit it a Ton BBQ Sauce. The fifth spot should be Duffy’s to lose.

      Everyone knows that smuganomics patients deserve to be punched – have at it! There’s probably even an applicable insurance treatment code. No good doctor ever gives it away – everybody has to copay and copay.

  3. onbucky96 - Feb 1, 2014 at 4:51 PM

    As a Brewers fan, I’ve seen this before. Its Ned Yost being Ned Yost. Royals fan, its gonna get weird soon. Just don’t ask Ned. He’s never wrong.

  4. js20011041 - Feb 1, 2014 at 4:52 PM

    Part of the problem is something that’s systemic with baseball now. Carrying 7 and 8 man bullpens is ridiculous. If teams carried a long reliever, they would have a guy who could eat all of the low leverage innings that are currently being given to the 7th and 8th relievers. Teams would get so much more value out of carrying an extra bench bat or two. If the Royals had enough room on the bench to carry some extra bats, then they wouldn’t have to send Alcides Escobar to the plate in key spots. Of course, when considering current management, I’m not sure that the Royals would make intelligent decisions, even if given a 30 man roster.

  5. tuberippin - Feb 1, 2014 at 8:28 PM

    IMO, they’d be better off letting Ventura start the season in Triple-A, give Duffy the 5th spot (which he will most likely take being that his competition is Hochevar, Davis and Penny), trade Greg Holland for either a rotation upgrade (doubtful) or a hitting prospect (ideally an outfielder; the Royals’ “logjam” is not one of particularly great substance). Then you let Crow or Collins take the 9th, Coleman gets a setup or 7th inning role, Davis goes back to long relief, and Hochevar gets whatever job Coleman doesn’t get, with the added ability to do some long relief or spot starts when necessary.

    But the team is run by Dayton Moore and Ned Yost, so I anticipate they will do something stupid.

    • doctorofsmuganomics - Feb 1, 2014 at 10:05 PM

      Trade Greg Holland?

      You take that back. Take that back right now.

  6. jwbiii - Feb 2, 2014 at 12:40 AM

    As usual, if you want “WTF are the Royals Up to Now?” commentary, Rany Jazayerli is the go-to person.

    http://www.ranyontheroyals.com/

    The 1/27 post is worthwhile just for the Randy Milligan paragraph.

  7. blingslade - Feb 2, 2014 at 12:42 AM

    Same old sorry ass Royals!

  8. vols84 - Feb 2, 2014 at 5:45 PM

    Confusing article

  9. Geoff - Feb 25, 2014 at 3:04 PM

    Ventura has to start the season in the minors to delay his free agency, so he’s not a factor at the start of the season. Chen is mediocre, but hardly a disaster, and the likelihood is he’ll only be there for 10-15 starts before he’s replaced (and before his bonuses kick in) by Ventura or the other hotshot farm system prospect, Zimmer. There are plenty of asinine moves made by the Royals management (Shields for Myers, dumping Benifacio, overpaying for Vargas) but Chen’s one-year deal at middling money isn’t one on them.

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