The Royals have already begun receiving quite a few calls about the availability of closer Wade Davis, per FanRag’s Jon Heyman, and the team appears willing to consider the possibility of a deal, as it was this past July when Davis was a trade candidate prior to landing on the disabled list with a forearm strain.
Kansas City has yet to exercise Davis’ $10MM option for the 2017 season and won’t do so until the completion of the World Series, though it’s a lock that they’ll do so when that decision arrives. While he’s only controlled for one more season before hitting the open market, Davis would represent a considerably more affordable late-inning option (from a financial perspective, anyhow) than free agents such as Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen and Mark Melancon.
Heyman’s report doesn’t list specific teams that have reached out the K.C. general manager Dayton Moore, but the Giants are known to be prioritizing top-tier bullpen arms this winter. Speculatively speaking, the Dodgers could make sense as an eventual trade partner, given president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman’s familiarity with him (Friedman was the GM in Tampa Bay when Davis was drafted), though certainly Los Angeles has more pressing issues on its hands as it preps for a matchup with the Cubs in the NLCS. The Cubs themselves could also be in the market for a ninth-inning arm this offseason (though they may well try to retain Chapman), while the Yankees and Nationals represent other clubs that could explore opportunities to add high-impact relief help.
Of course, any number of teams could come calling on Davis given his relatively affordable salary and his track record of excellence. Since moving to the bullpen with the Royals following multiple lackluster seasons in the rotation, Davis has transformed into one of the game’s truly elite relievers. Dating back to Opening Day 2014, Davis boasts a comically minuscule 1.18 ERA with 11.5 K/9, 2.9 BB/9 and a 44.4 percent ground-ball rate. Moore has said that Kansas City will see its payroll “regress” in 2017, and swapping out Davis for some premium minor league talent and/or a cheaper, more controllable young big leaguer could help them work toward that end.
Then again, the 31-year-old Davis isn’t without his red flags. Though his 1.87 ERA in 2016 was once again pristine, his 9.8 K/9 rate was the lowest in any of his seasons as an elite reliever, while his 3.3 BB/9 rate was his highest of any full season in the ’pen. Davis’ velocity was down one full mile per hour over his 2015 average of 95.9, and he also spent a combined five weeks on the disabled list (spread across two different stints) due to forearm troubles. He surrendered three runs across his first three appearances in returning from that second DL stint, though interested parties may be heartened by the fact that he finished the year with seven shutout innings, during which he compiled a very tidy 9-to-1 K/BB ratio.
While it should be stressed that no deal would be reached with the postseason still in full swing, the preliminary talks being held now could ultimately provide the groundwork for more substantial discussions later in the offseason, be they at the GM Meetings in November or the Winter Meetings in early December.