Royals to give Hochevar, Davis second… mmm, sixth chances as SPs

12 Comments

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.

Evan Longoria: ‘I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base’

Joe Scarnici/Getty Images
10 Comments

The Rays were busy over the weekend, trading starter Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, designating All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, and then picking up C.J. Cron in a deal with the Angels. The Rays saved about $4 million — Odorizzi’s $6.3 million less Cron’s $2.3 million salary — and picked up a prospect. They’re still on the hook for Dickerson’s $5.95 million salary until they can find a trade partner, which seems likely.

Those are some head-scratching moves if you’re a Rays fan or a member of the Rays. Dickerson hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs, 62 RBI, and 84 runs scored in 629 plate appearances last season, part of which resulted in his first trip to the All-Star Game. Designating him for assignment is strictly a financial move, assuming he can be traded. The Rays are currently operating with a payroll below $70 million. This comes just a week and a half after Rays ownership proposed the public footing most of the bill for the club’s new stadium. And the Rays had traded third baseman Evan Longoria — then the face of the franchise — to the Giants earlier this offseason.

Longoria expressed sympathy for Rays fans for having to put up with this. Via Andrew Baggarly, Longoria said of the curious Dickerson move, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base. … I’m not going to take too many shots but it’s pretty obvious that guy is a valuable player and didn’t deserve to be DFAd. Corey was our best player last year.”

Longoria isn’t quite on the money there. By WAR, Dickerson ranked fifth among position players on the team, according to Baseball Reference. FanGraphs is also in agreement. Still, it’s indisputable that Dickerson, who turns 29 years old this May, more than pulled his weight. The Rays do not have a surfeit of starting outfielders, so it wasn’t like they were making room for other capable players. Mallex Smith, who put up a .684 OPS in 282 PA last year, is slated to start in left field at the moment. Designating Dickerson for assignment, as well as trading Longoria and Odorizzi, were simply cost-cutting decisions.

The Rays’ M.O. has been part of the problem leading to the current stagnant free agent market (sans Eric Hosmer‘s eight-year deal on Saturday). Teams like the Rays, Phillies, Reds, and Tigers have been explicitly putting out non-competitive teams in order to facilitate a rebuilding process. Longoria is right to express sympathy for Rays fans, who see their favorite team worsening a roster that went 80-82 last year. The Rays haven’t finished at .500 or above since 2013 and doesn’t figure to halt the streak this year.