After two seasons as a below average starter, Wade Davis broke through as a reliever for the Rays in 2012, amassing a 2.43 ERA and striking out 87 in 70 1/3 innings.
The Royals plan after picking him up in the James Shields-Wil Myers trade? Move him back to the rotation.
Luke Hochevar was a below average starter for five years before his move to the pen last year. However, he was an immediate success as a reliever, posting a 1.92 ERA and 82 strikeouts in 70 1/3 innings. This after he entered the season with a career ERA of 5.39.
So what are the Royals going to do now? Try him again as a starter, of course.
And they’re going to do the same with Davis, again, even though he was terrible as a starter last season and, again, an immediate success after losing his rotation spot and shifting back to the pen (one run in 10 innings in September).
The Royals will probably include one of the two in their 2014 rotation along with Shields, the newly acquired Jason Vargas, Jeremy Guthrie and Danny Duffy. It’s possible both could be starters if Duffy struggles in spring training.
On the one hand, the Royals do have the bullpen depth to pull off such a plan. Even though Hochevar and Davis have both looked like elite setup men when given the chance, the Royals will still be just fine with Kelvin Herrera, Aaron Crow, Tim Collins, Louis Coleman and Donnie Joseph working in front of closer Greg Holland.
But it still seems like a pretty awful idea. Davis and Hochevar have combined to spend eight seasons in a major league rotation. The only year in which either managed even a 90 ERA+ was Davis’s rookie campaign in 2010 (he came in at 96). Hochevar’s career-best ERA is 4.68 and ERA+ is 87.
At least in Hochevar’s case, one could argue that he figured something out as a reliever that he could carry back into the rotation with him. Of course, that was the argument for Davis a year ago and it didn’t work. Hochevar essentially ditched his slider and changeup as a reliever, becoming a fastball-cutter guy. He can rely more on that cutter going forward than he did before, but he’s still going to need to reincorporate the changeup as a starter and that’s always been a liability for him.
Ideally, the Royals would be able to trade two guys from the Davis-Hochevar-Herrera-Crow-Collins quintet for one quality starter. It really shouldn’t be that much of a reach, given the value all five of those guys possess. But if they can’t go that route, they’re probably better off just keeping all of those guys in the pen and signing re-signing Bruce Chen to round out the rotation.