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Bruce Chen Rumors
Longtime MLB veteran Bruce Chen joins the show to talk about his decision to bring an end to a distinguished career after throwing more than 1,500 big league innings over 17 seasons. Though he ended his career with the Indians, Chen saw action with eleven big league teams — most prominently, the Royals, Orioles, and Braves. The consummate crafty lefty, Chen has a fascinating story both personally and as a ballplayer.
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Chen struggled through 6 1/3 innings in two starts this year for Cleveland, permitting nine earned runs. He struck out four and walked one batter, but gave up 17 total hits — including three long balls.
Of course, Chen has long provided plenty of innings and flexibility to 11 total MLB clubs. The wily southpaw never relied much on velocity, working in the mid-80s in recent seasons. But that didn’t stop him from compiling over 1,500 innings in the majors.
All said, the Panamanian native compiled a 4.62 ERA with 6.7 K/9 against 3.2 BB/9 over 17 big league campaigns. Chen broke into the big leagues with the Braves at age 21. Atlanta signed him as an amateur way back in 1993.
Chen is, perhaps, most associated with the Royals, with whom he spent six seasons. His time in K.C. represented something of a late-career renaissance, as he compiled 5.6 rWAR in that span (in spite of a rough final campaign).
The Orioles arguably enjoyed Chen’s most productive overall campaign in 2005, when he racked up a career-high 197 1/3 frames while working to a 3.83 ERA. He ultimately spent three years with Baltimore, with his 343 2/3 innings with the O’s representing the second-most he logged with any single team.
Be sure to give a read to Chen’s Twitter timeline to read through his classy tip of the cap to the fans and teams he played for. MLBTR joins those around the game congratulating Chen on his career and wishing him luck in his future endeavors.
The 37-year-old Chen made two starts for the Indians, allowing nine runs (including three homers) while striking out four and walking one. He also posted a 7.45 ERA last season with the Royals. Chen did, however, perform well earlier this season in five starts for Columbus, so (assuming he clears waivers, which seems likely) he shouldn’t have much trouble finding a home on a Triple-A club somewhere. Chen has appeared with the Braves, Phillies, Mets, Expos, Reds, Astros, Red Sox, Orioles, Rangers, Royals and Indians in an MLB career that has now spanned 17 seasons.
Top White Sox prospect Carlos Rodon will make his first career big league start on Saturday. Rodon has pitched from the pen in the early going, but will get a chance to take the hill to open the game due to the five-game suspension of Jeff Samardzija. It remains to be seen what the team’s plans are the rest of the way with their highly-touted rookie, who was taken in last year’s draft out of N.C. State, but there seems to be at least a chance that he could pitch himself into a starting role given the struggles the team has had at the back end of the rotation.
- Speaking of interesting Saturday starters, the Indians will purchase the contract of journeyman lefty Bruce Chen to face the Twins this weekend, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian tweets. Chen inked a minor league deal with Cleveland and chose to stay with the organization rather than opting out when he did not make the Opening Day roster. The team will need to clear space on both its 40-man and 25-man rosters.
- Of broader concern for the Indians, GM Chris Antonetti and manager Terry Francona are facing their biggest challenge of their combined tenure, Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer explains. Expectations were high heading into the year, of course, and the club has roundly struggled thus far. The sense of urgency is evident, says Hoynes, as demonstrated by the team’s decision not to play center fielder Michael Bourn against lefties. As Hoynes rightly points out, the Bourn contract looked like a nice value when it was signed, but has hardly worked out for the Indians. Bourn has not only struggled offensively this year, but is not even providing the anticipated positive contribution in the field and on the bases. (Both UZR and DRS rate him as a negative in center over last year and this season’s early going.)
- Royals skipper Ned Yost says that he hopes outfielder Alex Rios will be back from his hand injury in about two weeks, per ESPN News Services. But the veteran just started swinging a bat again and does not have a precise timeline, per a tweet from Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star. His replacements — Paulo Orlando and Jarrod Dyson — have actually been pretty good, at least if you buy into a short sample of defensive metrics. Both fWAR and rWAR value the pair at nearly one combined win above replacement.
Here’s the latest from the East coast:
- Phillies Rule 5 pick Odubel Herrera is expected to be the Opening Day center fielder, reports Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com. Herrera is a second baseman by trade, but the Phillies began using him in center field 10 days ago. He’ll displace Ben Revere whose poor routes and weak arm are better suited to left field. It’s unclear if that arrangement is temporary or permanent. The club entered this spring with a planned alignment of Domonic Brown, Revere, and Grady Sizemore from left to right. Brown will likely miss Opening Day with an Achilles injury and Sizemore has performed poorly this spring. It’s possible Brown will move back to right field upon returning from injury.
- Orioles outfielder David Lough will likely open the season on the disabled list with a hamstring injury, reports Roch Kubatko of MASN Sports. Lough was already on shaky territory with a 5-for-27 spring. The lefty is viewed as a defensive replacement. The impending move will probably open the door for utility man Jimmy Paredes.
- The Rays are looking at external starting pitching options as they try to piece together a decimated rotation, writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Among the candidates are Wandy Rodriguez, Shaun Marcum, Bruce Chen, and Clayton Richard. Internal alternatives include Matt Andriese, Mike Montgomery, Burch Smith, and Everett Teaford. The club doesn’t need a fifth starter until April 14th. Alex Cobb, Drew Smyly, and Alex Colome are all expected to return relatively early in the season, so a large investment is viewed as unnecessary.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.