After 13 seasons and 10 teams, left-hander Bruce Chen has himself a multiyear contract. The Royals re-signed him to a two-year, $9 million deal on Wednesday, SI.com’s Jon Heyman reports.
There’s never been a journeyman quite like Chen. 34 others have also played for 10 different franchises, but Chen pulled it off in just 11 seasons before finding a home in Kansas City. This next year will be his fourth with the Royals, and after a rocky start with the team in 2009, he’s gone 24-15 with a 3.96 ERA the last two years.
Chen broke in with the Braves very young, so he’s still just 34 now. Doomed by a proclivity for giving him homers in his early years, he’s benefited tremendously from the game’s falling power numbers. It also helps that he’s gotten to play in an underrated pitcher’s park in Kansas City recently.
There is a big cause for concern here, though. Chen fanned just 5.6 batters per nine innings last season, down from 6.3 in 2010. His career rate is 6.8. Chen’s a different pitcher now than he used to be, one who doesn’t need to get so many outs via the K. Still, it’s hardly a good sign that he took such a big dip. His walk rate is falling as well, which is a big reason the loss of strikeouts didn’t hurt him last season. It’s just that a tumbling strikeout rate is one of the worst indicators when it comes to predicting future success.
The Royals are simply hoping for more of the same from Chen. It’s doubtful that he’ll ever start a postseason game for the team, but they’re banking on him serving as a solid middle-of-the-r0tation guy for a while longer.
And chalk one up for perseverence here. It’s a wonder than Chen never gave up while bouncing from team-to-team. From 2000-03, he played for multiple clubs each season. In 2006, he went 0-7 with a 6.93 ERA. In 2007, the Rangers sent him down after just five appearances and never brought him back. It was two years before he’d again see the majors. But now he’ll make nearly as much these next two seasons as he has the rest of his career combined.