In the days before baseball’s non-waiver trade deadline, Royals closer Wade Davis has continued to draw interest from other clubs. Whether Davis is dealt anywhere before Monday’s 3 p.m. deadline remains uncertain.
The Royals have expressed a willingness to listen to any and all offers. But general manager Dayton Moore has stated that any deal would have to make his club better in the short term and the long term. Club officials believe their championship window can extend through at least next season. Davis, who is under club control through 2017, remains the keystone member of a bullpen that was central to consecutive World Series appearances.
For now, Davis remains unfazed by the stream of speculation and rumors.
“People talk about it sometimes, even players,” Davis said on Thursday, sitting in the visitors clubhouse at Globe Life Park. “And when it comes down to it, we’re here because, one, we love to play baseball. And obviously, we’re here for our teammates, but most of all, (we’re here for) our families.”
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The Royals, of course, may ultimately decide that retaining Davis makes the most sense for 2017. But until that moment, Davis will remain one of the most coveted relievers on the market in the days before the deadline. Last week, the Washington Nationals reportedly showed interest in Davis. On Thursday, the Los Angeles Dodgers were the latest team to be linked to the All-Star closer. According to a report by Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan, the Royals had considered packaging right-hander starting pitcher Ian Kennedy in a potential Davis trade. The Dodgers profiled as a team that has both shown interest in Davis and could take on the remaining money in Kennedy’s five-year, $72 million contract.
On Thursday, Davis shrugged his shoulders at the rampant rumors that percolate around the trade deadline. Kennedy just offered a smile. For now, the prospect of such a deal remains remote for multiple reasons.
In the offseason, Kennedy signed a back-loaded five-year deal with Kansas City, a bonafide innings eater for the defending world champions. Under the current terms of the deal, Kennedy is making $7.5 million this season and will make $13.5 million in 2017 before being paid $49 million over the final three years of the deal.
So far, the return on investment has been mixed. In his first season, Kennedy has posted a 6-9 record with a 4.41 ERA in 20 starts. He has recorded 117 strikeouts in 114 1/3 innings while allowing a league-leading 26 homers. According to ERA-plus, an advanced metric that adjusts for league and ballpark, Kennedy has been a league-average starter in 2016.
Publicly, the Royals have said that Kennedy has performed close to expectations this season. But his inclusion in a possible deal is intriguing. His departure would free up money in the offseason and allow the Royals to re-invest the dollars elsewhere. It would also leave the Royals’ rotation even more fragile heading into the offseason.
Of course, the real prize in a Davis trade would be, well … Davis, the 30-year-old right-hander who has cemented himself as baseball’s best reliever over the last two seasons.
The numbers speak for themselves. In 2014, Davis recorded a 1.00 ERA with 109 strikeouts in 72 innings. He backed up the breakout campaign by posting a 0.94 ERA in 2015. This year, Davis has been stung by some relative regression. His ERA is 1.60 after allowing two runs in a 7-5 victory on Wednesday. His strikeouts per innings have decreased (8.6), and his walks have jumped to four per nine innings, the highest of his career.
Davis also spent 15 days on the disabled list after suffering a forearm strain before the All-Star break. But Davis insists that his overall health is no different than it was in 2014 or 2015.
“I don’t feel like my stuff is changing,” Davis said. “I don’t feel like anything is different.”
Royals pitching coach Dave Eiland has chalked up some of the regression to Davis’ irregular schedule. As the team has struggled for much of July, manager Ned Yost has had to search for ways to keep Davis sharp. Some of the issue, Davis says, has just been minor mechanical flaws, perhaps exacerbated by his usage.
“I’ve walked more people this year, which sucks,” Davis said. “I haven’t struck out as many. But I’ve also probably had a lot more hitters that I would consider someone I could strike out, put the ball in play early in the count. I’m never trying to strike anybody out early in the count anyway, unless it’s necessary. Sometimes numbers themselves are lucky.”
In some ways, Davis has simply proven that he is human. And he would likely still command a sizable return on the trade market. A week ago, the Cubs acquired left-handed reliever Aroldis Chapman from the New York Yankees for a four-player prospect package. The difference: Chapman will be a free agent after the season while Davis has a $10 million team option in his contract for 2017. Which means that if a playoff contender would like to add the services of Davis, the price could be massive.
“The only time I’ve heard anything is when other people have brought it up,” Davis said on Thursday. “ I haven’t heard anything.”