SATURDAY: The deal is now official, according to a team release.
THURSDAY 2:58pm: Chen will actually get $3MM this year, with the remaining $1.25MM guarantee going to his mutual option buyout, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com.
10:45am: The Royals will bring back free agent swingman Bruce Chen after agreeing to terms on a one-year, $4.25MM deal that includes a $5.5MM mutual option for 2015. The 36-year-old lefty, a client of the Boras Corporation, will earn $3.25MM in 2014 and is also promised a $1MM buyout on the option. He can also make an additional $1.25MM in performance bonuses.
Chen resurrected his career in Kansas City and has spent the last five seasons there. Working mostly as a starter, but also seeing significant time in the pen, Chen has posted a 4.32 ERA in 670 1/3 innings during that time. In the process, he has maintained a 6.1 K/9 strikeout rate and 2.9 BB/9 walk rate. Last year, maintaining roughly that K:BB rate, Chen threw to a 3.27 ERA in 121 innings over 15 starts and 19 relief appearances.
Interestingly, throughout his career, Chen has had as much success against right-handed hitters (.774 OPS against) as against lefties (.798). And he has fared as well when starting a game (.779) as when entering from the pen (.788). Last year, he was actually significantly better against opposite-handed hitters and in a starting role.
Already having over ten years of MLB service, Chen should be in line to achieve ten and five rights — an effective no-trade clause. The MLB Basic Agreement provides: "The contract of a Player with ten or more years of Major League service, the last five of which have been with one Club, shall not be assignable to another Major League Club without the Player’s written consent." Chen originally signed a minor league deal with the Royals in 2009, and was not called up until late June of that year. By my count, he racked up exactly 100 days of service that year. Chen therefore needs an additional 72 days of service to make a full year, which he is on track to reach on May 11, 2014. As a signing free agent, Chen could refuse any trade on or before June 15 anyway, so he should effectively have complete no-trade rights for the coming season.
For the Royals, Chen provides a solid option to slot in at the back of the rotation or serve out of the pen, as the situation dictates over the course of the season. It took only a moderate guarantee to bring back the Panama native, who has not missed significant time due to injury since missing 44 games with a lat strain in early 2011.
It is not clear whether Chen will be expected to battle for a rotation spot during Spring Training. With James Shields, Jeremy Guthrie, and Jason Vargas locks to hold down starting roles (barring injury), Chen could face an uphill battle to break camp as a starter. He would presumably compete with fellow rotation and pen candidates Wade Davis and Luke Hochevar, along with youngsters Danny Duffy, Yordano Ventura, and Kyle Zimmer.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports first reported the signing (via Twitter). Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com first tweeted that the deal was for one year, with a mutual option. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com first reported the deal's value and a breakdown of the financial terms (Twitter links).