The Royals announced Wednesday that they’ve signed right-hander Wade Davis to a minor league contract. Davis, a client of Jet Sports, will presumably be invited to Major League Spring Training and compete for a spot on the Opening Day roster..
This marks the second straight year in which Kansas City has brought back one of its former All-Star closers on a minor league arrangement. The Royals inked Greg Holland to a similar contract a year ago and reaped considerable benefit when Holland not only turned in a rebound campaign but also agreed to return in 2021 on an affordable one-year deal.
Interestingly, The Athletic’s Alec Lewis reports (via Twitter) that Davis signed the exact same contract as Holland did a year ago. Davis will earn a $1.25MM salary if he makes the big league roster and can secure an additional $1.125MM via incentives. USA Today’s Bob Nightengale tweets that Davis can also opt out of the contract late in Spring Training if he does not make Kansas City’s Opening Day roster.
The Royals traded Davis to the Cubs in exchange for Jorge Soler prior to the 2017 season — a deal that has paid off for GM Dayton Moore and his staff in the long run. Soler led the league in home runs in 2019 and has emerged as a key piece in the Royals’ lineup, though he’s currently controlled for just one more season. Still, the Royals will now have the potential to benefit from both players in that one-for-one swap just four years after making the deal.
Davis was quite good in what proved to be a one-year stop with the Cubs, but things went south for him not long after going to the Rockies on a three-year deal with a record-setting (for a reliever) $17.33MM annual salary. Davis racked up 43 saves in the first year of the deal but did so with a rather pedestrian 4.13 ERA. A few particularly ugly blown saves were the culprit in that lackluster mark, however, and Davis’ strikeout and walk numbers remained strong.
In the second and third years of the deal, though, the wheels completely came off, as Davis was blown up for a 9.77 ERA and a 5.37 SIERA in 47 innings. At his best with the Royals, Davis was striking out 39 percent of the hitters he faced and walking just eight percent of them. In 2019-20, he punched out 19.5 percent of opponents, walked 13.9 percent of them and surrendered 10 home runs in those 47 frames. Davis was hampered by a shoulder strain in 2020, which may have contributed to a greatly diminished 91.7 mph average velocity on his fastball.
There’s little harm for the Royals in seeing if they can catch lightning in a bottle with Davis as they did last winter with Holland and, even more so, Trevor Rosenthal. He’ll vie for a spot in a bullpen that is set to lose some notable veterans but has a handful of intriguing, young, hard throwers hoping to establish themselves in 2021.