Sunday, February 16, 2014

Wildcard Wade Wants to Start

After the signing of Bruce Chen, I don't think I was alone in assuming that the final rotation spot would come down to either Yordano Ventura or Danny Duffy. Of course, I knew that a few other names would be thrown out as candidates: Brad Penny, Chris Dwyer, Luke Hochevar, Wade Davis, and Kyle Zimmer. Despite most of us believing that Hochevar and Davis will figure in as bullpen components, both are making buzz about their focus on reclaiming roles in the rotation. On Friday, Fox Sports writer Jeffrey Flanagan brought us some quotes from Davis on the subject
"I'm definitely going in to start. I hope I get the opportunity to pitch and help this team win a lot of ballgames. I'm ready, probably more so than I ever have been."
When Wade Davis was acquired in conjunction with James Shields last winter, many pointed to Davis as the wild card of the deal. Defendants of the trade also were quick to cite Wildcard Wade's contract status when the Shields portion of the deal was criticized due to his two years of control. Unlike Shields, Davis came with two guaranteed seasons, plus three team options for 2015-17.

The problem with these options is that they really are only economically viable if Davis is logging his innings as a member of the team's rotation. It is likely for this reason that the Royals were so patient with Davis as a starter in 2013. Despite posting a 5.67 ERA as a starter, Davis was somehow able to hold down a rotation spot for 24 starts, and was not moved to relief duty until September.

There is a very slight possibility that Davis wasn't as bad in 2013, as his numbers would indicate. Afterall, his FIP was just 4.18, which compares quite favorably to his 5.32 ERA. This discrepancy largely stems from his .361 BABIP against. However, when plugging in his batted ball frequencies to an expected BABIP calculator, you'll find that the number isn't that much different than the BABIP that was actually posted against him. This is mainly due to opponents posting a 27.5% LD% against the former Rays farmhand. Fangraphs' tERA, which estimates ERA with batted ball data, says that his ERA should have been 5.42.

According to Troy Renck, beat writer for the Denver Post, the Royals and Rockies were discussing a deal that would have sent Wade Davis to Colorado in exchange for outfielder Dexter Fowler. If this is true then the Royals probably were very open to moving Davis throughout the offseason. Unfortunately, they were unable to find a match for a trade. Since it is hard to imagine the Royals contending and going through the Wade Davis starter experience again, it is unlikely that reliever Wade Davis will justify a $7 million option for 2015.

When the Royals acquired Wildcard Wade they likely hoped that they were acquiring a solid mid rotation starter for the next five seasons. If Davis could have been this it would have greatly helped to justify the Wil Myers trade. Regrettably, the former 3rd round pick has failed to transition into a useful rotation piece and as a result a year from now, the Royals will likely have only one compensation draft pick to show for their blue chip prospect.

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