Bruce Chen Re-Ups

2 years and $9 million. And another free agent lefty is off the market – and that is one of two big ways this signing affects Detroit. Brad Penny won’t be and shouldn’t be back, the Tigers rotation remains righty-only and Jacob Turner may not be ready to succeed as of April. These are reasons why the Tigers ought to (and probably do) have interest in acquiring a veteran southpaw. The team also has 4 good and young starters remaining in the big league rotation and plenty of pitching prospects who might be worth a shot in years to come – and big holes at second and third. These are reasons why the Tigers ought not (and probably will not) sign a guy for a lot of years or a lot of dollars, or trade precious position prospects to acquire another starter. So what the Tigers needed was a journeyman lefty – good, but not so good as to have teams climbing over one another to offer him a nine-figure deal. The best of that lot was Bruce Chen (and possibly Freddy Garcia, who also re-signed with his old club) and now he is no more. Of course, the Tigers really want a guy who would sign a deal like Penny’s – one year only at a cost of $5 million or less. Chen was good enough to get two, which to be honest is more time than the Tigers would probably have needed him for – unless Dombrowski chose to ship out one of the incumbent right-handers.

The second impact this has on Detroit is…

…through the continued development of the Kansas City Royals into a potential contender. We’ve all heard about the historical correlation between ‘top farm system’ and ‘division winner’ within 5 seasons or so – so no one will be at all surprised to see the young Royals climbing in the standings in coming seasons. The big question was and is ‘when’? The first wave of prospects hit in 2011, but overall the team still wasn’t real good. On the offensive side, it’s possible that the Royals will have ‘arrived’ by 2012. The bullpen could be finally up to par as well. The biggest question mark is the rotation, where the team’s lauded prospects haven’t made as rapid progress (and haven’t done much of anything at all at the big league level yet). KC might have enough top young hurlers to fill 2 rotation spots next year, but not 4. Their acquisition of Jonathan Sanchez was a definite step toward contention – this deal is a little different. Chen is solid, and wasn’t too expensive, and fills a hole until someone younger with a higher ceiling can take over – which is all he was doing in a KC uniform in seasons past. Relative to simply not signing anyone and hoping another prospect hit instead of missed, signing Chen definitely moves the Royals forward. Relative to dealing prospects from the lower minors for an ace or near ace, signing Chen signals that the Royals are going to plod along at a leisurely pace rather than attempting to speed up their timetable.

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Tags: Bruce Chen

  • garretkc

    I assumed we wouldn’t get Chen, but Garcia is a guy who I thought would have filled the void left by Penny very adequately. For some reason, I think he have been able and willing to move to the bullpen mid-season too, which would be a nice quality in whoever the Tigers get.

  • garretkc

    I assumed we wouldn’t get Chen, but Garcia is a guy who I thought would have filled the void left by Penny very adequately. For some reason, I think he may have been able and willing to move to the bullpen mid-season too, which would be a nice quality in whoever the Tigers get. Of course, a bidding war with the Yankees probably isn’t something they can afford.

  • MCBjohnverburg

    They’re moving in the right direction for sure. If I were them, I would definitely let Teaford compete for a rotation spot. Dwyer and Montgomery have bounce back potential, and Odorizzi is getting closer. Their run differential was good enough to suggest they should have had a few more wins last season.

  • jim fetterolf

    As a Royals’ fan, I like bringing back Master Chen. He’s solid, he’s crafty, and he’ll be a good mentor for Duffy, Montgomery, and maybe Teaford, whom he helped game plan a couple of starts for at the end of the year. With the new offense and defense of the end-of-the-year team behind him, I think he gets 15 wins in the 4-spot. I also think the Royals win 85 games next season:) Looking forward to spring training.

  • johnmcgeehan

    The Tigers would be better served by giving the young guys a chance than by making the fans suffer through another year of a “certified number five starter” like Penny. Verlander, Fister, and Scherzer should start every chance they get. Porcello averages only one WAR a year, but is young and could break out. Pair him with lefty Duane Below. Have Porcello start most games, but start Below if the opposition features more left handed bats (against whom Porcello has a career .857 OPS). Porcello can work harder knowing there is a long man right behind him, and he can be held to maybe 20-24 starts on the season. Below can have a reasonable tryout as a starter and yet avoid the strain of a large jump in the number of major league innings from season to season. Each can relieve the other so that they get some work in when not starting, and stay sharp. In the same fashion, pair Jacob Turner with lefty Adam Wilk for the fifth starter. By mid-season, Drew Smyly or Casey Crosby may be ready to step in for whichever lefty is not getting the job done. With this approach, the Tigers should have at least as much success as with a rent-a-starter. But they will save $4 million, and one of the prospects will get hot and have an increased perceived value.

    • ChrisHannum

      @johnmcgeehan That kind of approach has at least occurred to me too, though since absolutely nobody ever does it I suppose there must be a reason not to that isn’t obvious to me.

      • woodnick

        @ChrisHannum@johnmcgeehan I think the issue would probably be in the #’s game…essentially having 7 starters would force a team to reduce the bullpen/position players by 2. It may not seem like a lot, but there are stretches where those last 2 are definitely needed.

        • ChrisHannum

          @woodnick@ChrisHannum@johnmcgeehan In that scenario, the ‘pen would have two swingmen and five starters, so you’d definitely be limited in when you could actually use those swingmen relative to a standard long reliever, but all four guys should be able to make at least 10 appearances out of the ‘pen during the course of a season, and all of those would be for multiple innings.