Bruce Chen Rumors

East Notes: Herrera, Lough, Rays

Here’s the latest from the East coast:


Indians Notes: Kluber, Chen, Marcum, Downs, Sands

Let’s have a look at some notes out of Indians camp:

  • While extension negotiations between the Indians and Corey Kluber have been friendly, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes that it is a high-risk situation for both sides. For the team, the appeal of cost certainty (and, potentially, extended team control) is obvious, but guaranteeing money for the soon-to-be 29-year-old does have downside. And for Kluber, as agent B.B. Abbott notes, there is a balance to be struck between achieving fair value and locking up some security as an older pre-arb player. “If he considers this, he is doing it with his eyes wide open,” said Abbott. He knows this will be the only time to sign this kind of multi-year deal.”
  • The Indians have informed veteran pitchers Bruce Chen, Shaun Marcum, and Scott Downs that all three will not be on the Opening Day roster out of camp, Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer reports. All three are in camp on minor league deals. Of that group, only Downs is an Article XX(B) free agent, meaning that he will need to be offered a $100K retention bonus if the club wishes to retain his rights in the minors. Both Chen and Marcum have out clauses in their deals permitting them to return to the open market rather than going to Triple-A, Hoynes reports.
  • Another player still battling for a roster spot, outfielder/first baseman Jerry Sands, helped his cause with a mammoth home run yesterday, as Hoynes reports. While the quality production out of his right-handed bat this spring has increased his appeal to Cleveland, Sands is still not far removed from surgery on his tendon sheath and can be controlled through an assignment in the minors to start the year. “I don’t know if Sands fits yet,” said Indians manager Terry Francona. “But you have to believe that a guy that can do what he does at some point is going to help us. Is it opening day, we don’t know yet. But we’re glad he’s here.”

Indians To Sign Bruce Chen To Minors Deal

WEDNESDAY: Chen has an opt-out in his deal that can be triggered at the end of the spring, reports Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer (Twitter link).

It is worth noting that, because he did not finish the 2014 season on a 40-man roster, Chen does not qualify as an Article XX(B) free agent. The negotiated opt-out clause, then, replaces the protections he would otherwise have received.

MONDAY: The Indians have agreed to a minor league pact with veteran southpaw Bruce Chen, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports on Twitter. Chen can earn a $1MM salary if he makes the club, and can also achieve up to $1MM in incentives.

Chen, 37, has worked to a 4.58 lifetime ERA over parts of sixteen MLB seasons. The swingman earned a $3.25MM free agent guarantee with the Royals after putting up good results in 2013, but was released in September after posting a rough 7.45 ERA in his 48 1/3 frames last year.

Cleveland marks the 11th MLB club that Chen has suited up for. The Indians rotation looks to be a tough nut to crack, and the team does have a variety of left-handed pen options in tow already, but Chen’s salary possibilities suggest that he likely drew interest elsewhere and picked Cleveland for a reason.

As with fellow veteran lefty Barry Zito, who also struck a deal tonight, Chen has experienced a significant decrease in fastball velocity in recent years despite an already-low starting point. In 2014, his average heater dipped under 86 mph for the first time in his career, though Chen still managed to set down 6.7 batters per nine by strikeout.



Central Links: Alvarez, Kang, Hanrahan, Chen

The Pirates and third baseman turned first baseman Pedro Alvarez have their arbitration hearing set for tomorrow, reports ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick (on Twitter). That means that by Thursday of this week, we should know whether Alvarez will earn the $5.75MM for which he filed or the $5.25MM figure submitted by the team (as shown in MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker). Alvarez, who turned 28 earlier this month, saw his homer total cut in half from 2013 (36) to 2014 (18) in a season in which he hit .231/.312/.405 overall. The Pirates have already won an arbitration hearing this offseason, beating Neil Walker. He’d filed at $9MM against the team’s $8MM. They also lost a hearing against Vance Worley, who will earn $2.45MM rather than $2MM as a result.

Here’s more from the game’s Central divisions…

  • Pirates infielder Jung-ho Kang isn’t making the jump the Major Leagues just for himself, writes Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Rather, Kang hopes to be a trailblazer whose success allows other position players to jump from the Korea Baseball Organization to the Major Leagues. “…I know that if I do well, more Korean players will come here,” said Kang through an interpreter. “So while I feel pressure, I’m also very excited about opening the market here for Korean players.” Kang knows the language barrier he faces will be an obstacle, though he’s already met teammates Andrew Lambo and Tony Sanchez and has positive interactions down in Florida. “He seems like a great dude,” Lambo told Biertempfel. “He’ll fit in right. He’s real quiet, obviously, coming from a different country. But he’s also given a (vibe) that he is genuinely friendly and wants to get to know every player, which is really cool.”
  • Joel Hanrahan‘s 2015 contract with the Tigers contains opt-out clauses on April 30 and June 5, reports Chris Iott of MLive.com. As Iott points out, Hanrahan will also be an Article XX(B) free agent this year. As a player who finished the 2014 season on a Major League contract but signed a minor league deal this offseason, he’ll have to be released or paid a $100K retention bonus before sending him to the minors at the end of Spring Training. MLBTR will again cover all of the Article XX(B) free agents in a more in-depth fashion as Spring Training wears on.
  • Left-hander Bruce Chen will have a shot to crack the Indians‘ rotation after signing a minor league deal with an invite to big league Spring Training, but he faces an uphill battle in making the roster, writes MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian. Cleveland’s top four rotation slots are occupied by Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer and Gavin Floyd. The fifth spot will be competed for by Danny Salazar, T.J. House, Zach McAllister and Chen. Though he could land in the bullpen as well, he’s seemingly behind fellow lefties Marc Rzepczynski, Nick Hagadone and Kyle Crockett on the depth chart.

Royals Release Bruce Chen

The Royals have released left-hander Bruce Chen, MLB Daily Dish’s Chris Cotillo reports (Twitter link).  Chen, 37, was designated for assignment by the team last week.

The veteran had a 7.45 ERA over 48 1/3 innings with the Royals this season, making seven starts and six relief appearances.  ERA predictors aren’t usually friendly to a low-strikeout, contact pitcher such as Chen, though his current FIP (4.57), xFIP (4.64) and SIERA (4.43) indicate that he has been rather unlucky to produce that 7.45 total this season.

Chen re-signed with the Royals last winter, inking a one-year, $3.25MM deal with a $5.5MM mutual option for 2015 (with a $1MM buyout).  He has pitched for 10 different teams over his 16-year career and it’s possible he could turn his total up to 11 if a club is on the lookout for an experienced southpaw as bullpen depth down the stretch.  Chen is only a year removed from a 2013 season that saw him post a 3.27 ERA over 121 innings for Kansas City.

Nine players remain in “DFA Limbo,” and you can follow their status with the MLB Trade Rumors DFA Tracker.


Royals Designate Bruce Chen For Assignment

The Royals have designated veteran lefty Bruce Chen for assignment, according to a tweet from Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com. Chen, a 37-year-old native of Panama, is playing on a one-year, $4.25MM deal that includes a $5.5MM option for next season ($1MM buyout).

Chen earned that deal with a strong 2013, in which he posted a 3.27 ERA over 121 innings, including 15 starts and 16 relief appearances. But he has not carried that production forward to 2014. Over 48 1/3 frames — again, evenly split between starts (7) and relief appearances (6) — Chen has allowed 7.45 earned runs per nine.

Of course, Chen’s peripherals remain largely in line with his recent marks: he has struck out batters at a 6.7 K/9 rate that matches exactly his career mean, and has walked slightly fewer batters (3.0 per nine) than he has averaged. Chen’s FIP (4.58), xFIP (4.64), and SIERA (4.43) all suggest that he has been as good or better than in years past, and should be in line for some positive regression.


Royals Re-Sign Bruce Chen

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). 


Rangers Looking At Lefties To Replace Holland

The Rangers are in discussions with several free agent pitchers who would step in for the injured Derek Holland, reports Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News. Among the pitchers contacted by Texas are Paul Maholm, who revealed the discussions himself recently on MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM, and recent Royals swingman Bruce Chen.

With Holland reportedly out until at least the All-Star break, the Rangers will need to account for some innings, whether they do so from within or make an addition. Both Maholm and Chen have generally been reliable inning-eaters over their careers, so the interest makes sense in that regard.

The 31-year-old Maholm should come at a relatively reasonable price after enduring some injury issues and a down season in 2013. After respective 3.66 and 3.67 ERA campaigns, Maholm ended up with a 4.41 ERA last year. He also posted his lowest inings total (153) since becoming a full-time big leaguer, though his strikeout ratio (6.2 K/9 vs. 2.8 BB/9) was in line with his career averages and he actually posted his second-best xFIP (3.89). Maholm landed at the 43rd slot on MLBTR's Tim Dierkes's list of the top fifty free agents.

Chen, 36, was effective last year for Kansas City in a mixed role (15 starts, 19 relief appearances). He ended up with a 3.27 ERA in 121 innings, though his FIP (4.12) and xFIP (4.93) indicate reason to view that tally with a grain of salt. Indeed, Chen's 2013 BABIP-against (.255) and strand rate (78.8% LOB) fell below and above league average, respectively.


The Latest On The Orioles’ Pitching Search

Reports yesterday once again connected the Orioles to right-hander Bronson Arroyo, reviving some early offseason linking between the two sides. In his latest piece, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun runs down the list of potential targets for Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette, including Arroyo.

Connolly offers a familiar refrain regarding Arroyo, writing that the right-hander seeks a three-year guarantee. Arroyo has been linked to many clubs to this point, but none has been willing to offer a third guaranteed season to the longtime Reds hurler to this point. Though Arroyo is as durable as any starter in the game, having authored nine consecutive seasons of 199 or more innings, he also turns 37 in February, making such a commitment a risk. Connolly writes that there is a sense that Arroyo would go to Baltimore if guaranteed a third season, and the club is "definitely interested." Duquette and the Orioles have maintained an ongoing dialogue with Arroyo's agent, Terry Bross, Connolly adds.

The Orioles have also had internal discussions about bringing back a familiar face in the form of left-hander Bruce Chen, Connolly reports. Chen's name has scarcely been mentioned to this point in the offseason, but the soft-tossing southpaw is coming off a season in which he posted a 3.27 ERA with 5.8 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 in 121 innings for the Royals. Of course, Chen also posted an astoundingly low 27.7 percent ground-ball rate in 2013, and his 51.9 percent fly-ball rate was the highest in the Majors for pitchers with at least 100 innings. Clearly, such trends would not bode well for a transition to the hitter-friendly parks of the AL East. LIke Arroyo, Chen will turn 37 this year.

Jason Hammel still doesn't figure to be an option for the O's, though Connolly seems to think the idea is becoming more plausible than it was earlier in the offseason. Both sides enjoyed their time together, he writes.

Names like Masahiro Tanaka, Ervin Santana, Ubaldo Jimenez and Matt Garza can all be effectively ruled out, writes Connolly. That's not surprising to hear, given Duquette's earlier statement that the club wouldn't be in the mix for Tanaka and the team's budgetary constraints. Santana, Jimenez and Garza are all likely to sign at least four-year deals, pricing them out of Baltimore's range.


Royals Notes: Butler, Pitching, Chen, Santana, Phillips

The Royals were reportedly open to listening to offers for Billy Butler last month and several teams (including the Mariners) are interested in the slugger, but a Royals team official tells Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star that a Butler trade is unlikely.  “Do the math. We’re looking to add offense," the official said.  "If we trade Butler, we’d have to add a lot of offense. It would have to be a series of moves to do that, and that’s hard to do. Plus, there’s just not that much available offense out there.”

Here's some more from Dutton…

  • The Royals are only looking to add one pitcher to their rotation this offseason, at most.  James Shields and Jeremy Guthrie have the first two spots and GM Dayton Moore hopes that the final two spots can be filled by the club's internal depth.  “To say we need to go out and get two guys…if it happens, great. But it’s not a necessity for us. We’d like to get one, but we want to get the right one for the right type of contract," Moore said.
  • While Moore wouldn't mind if young arms like Yordano Ventura, Danny Duffy and Kyle Zimmer all won rotation spots, the club prefers a veteran starter.  "We've seen medicals on all of the guys…We're still trying to determine what pitchers out there will give us the least amount of risk," Moore said.  Dutton has cited Josh Johnson, Tim Hudson and Phil Hughes as Royals targets.
  • The Royals are still in contact with Bruce Chen, though they see the left-hander as a swingman more than a solid rotation fixture.
  • It seems as if Ervin Santana has priced himself out of the Royals' range, though Moore didn't close the door on a possible return for the free agent right-hander.  "Erv was a terrific pitcher for us, and we’re going to stay engaged. He’s agreed to stay engaged with us. We’ll see how it works. I hope he gets a great deal.”
  • Manager Ned Yost recently said that he and Moore had mentioned Brandon Phillips' name in discussions, though Dutton hears that such a trade would be unlikely.  Moore said “Second base is not a huge priority for us” earlier this week, and even with the Reds eating part of Phillips' contract, he would be a costly addition for the Royals.