Luke Hochevar

The Royals remain deluded in their hopes for Luke Hochevar

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Luke Hochevar has made $3.1 million while going 7-13 with a 5.36 ERA in 28 starts this season. One would think that increasing salary combined with his worst performance since 2009 would finally result in his departure at season’s end. However, GM Dayton Moore said the Royals have no intention of non-tendering Hochevar this winter.

The Royals still seem convinced that there’s a good pitcher lurking somewhere inside Hochevar’s body just waiting to bust out. Sure, he turns 29 this week and he has a career record of 37-56 with a 5.30 ERA, but he still throws pretty hard.

“His numbers are not spectacular by any stretch of the imagination,” manager Ned Yost told the Kansas City Star, “but I’ve seen many pitchers go through what he’s gone through. Actually, he’s better than most of those guys.”

Better than what guys? Yost listed Jorge De La Rosa, Jason Schmidt and Kevin Millwood as starters who struggled for a long time before figuring it out. However, Hochevar has nothing on that trio.

Hochevar: 80 ERA+ in 124 career starts
De La Rosa: 83 ERA+ in first 59 starts, now 95 ERA+ in 126 career starts
Schmidt: 97 ERA+ in first 128 career starts
Millwood: 114 ERA+ in first 126 career starts

No, Hochevar has very little common in those guys. I can only find one guy in the last 50 years who had a six-year start similar to Hochevar’s and went on to to become a really good pitcher. That’s Mike Scott, who found a splitter and won a Cy Young Award with the Astros in 1986. He had a 78 ERA+ through six years.

Ryan Dempster is also worth mentioning; he had an 85 ERA+ in his first six seasons before hurting his arm, turning to relief and eventually becoming a quality starter. Dempster, though, had already had one big season at age 23. Hochevar has never had a year in which he’s been an average starter.

There’s also Jamie Moyer with an 87+ ERA through six years, but I don’t see Hochevar going that route.

The point is that the odds are very much against Hochevar at this point, and though I don’t necessarily disagree that he still has some upside remaining, the Royals would likely be better off on spending their $4 million on someone else next year.

Phil Bickford suspended 50 games for drug of abuse

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 10:  Phil Bickford of the U.S. Team pitches during the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game at PETCO Park on July 10, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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Brewers’ right-hander Phil Bickford received a 50-game suspension after testing positive for a drug of abuse, per the Los Angeles Times’ Bill Shaikin. This is the second time Bickford has been suspended for recreational drug use, as he was previously penalized in 2015 after testing positive for marijuana prior to the amateur draft.

Bickford was selected by the Giants in the first round of the 2015 draft and was later dealt to the Brewers for lefty reliever Will Smith at the 2016 trade deadline. He finished his 2016 campaign in High-A Brevard County, pitching to a 3.67 ERA, 10.0 K/9 rate and 5.0 BB/9 over 27 innings.

Two other suspensions were handed down on Friday, one to Toronto minor league right-hander Pedro Loficial for a positive test for metabolites of Stanozolol and one to Miami minor league outfielder Casey Soltis for a second positive test for drugs of abuse. Loficial will serve a 72-game suspension, while Soltis will serve 50 games. All three suspensions are due to start at the beginning of the 2017 season for each respective minor league team.

Brewers’ GM David Stearns issued a statement after the Commissioner’s Office announced Bickford’s suspension (via Vince Lara-Cinisomo of Baseball America):

We are very disappointed to learn of Phil’s suspension, but we fully support the Minor League Baseball Drug Prevention and Testing Program and its enforcement by the Commissioner’s Office. Phil understands he made a mistake, and we fully anticipate that he will learn from this experience.

Diamondbacks sign Fernando Rodney to a one-year, $2.75 million deal

PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 21:  Fernando Rodney #56 of the Miami Marlins pitches during the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates on August 21, 2016 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***
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Confirming a report from Tuesday, the Diamondbacks officially signed right-hander Fernando Rodney to a one-year, $2.75 million contract on Friday. The 39-year-old stands to receive up to $4 million in incentives, per Jack MacGruder of FanRag Sports, with $250,000 kicking in when the veteran reaches 40, 50 and 60 appearances and $500,000 if he reaches 70.

Rodney came three games shy of the 70-appearance mark in 2016 during back-to-back stints with the Padres and Marlins. He put up a cumulative 3.44 ERA on the year, which effectively disguised the extreme split during his performances in San Diego and Miami. The Diamondbacks aren’t anywhere close to contending in 2017, but Rodney should stabilize the back end of their bullpen while providing Arizona GM Mike Hazen with a potential trade chip during next year’s deadline.

Hazen issued a statement following the signing:

With Fernando, we’re getting an established Major League closer and a veteran presence in the bullpen. It is helpful to have someone with his experience on the back end to slow the game down and get the final three outs.