Wade Davis returns to KC on Minors deal

January 20th, 2021

A familiar face has returned to the Royals organization.

Reliver signed a Minor League deal with Kansas City, the club announced Wednesday, bringing back a key member of its 2015 World Series team. Davis will earn $1.25 million if he makes the big league club, and there are also about $1 million in incentives, sources told MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand. It’s a similar deal to what the Royals and reliever signed last season -- and that worked out well for both sides, with Holland as an anchor of the bullpen, resulting in the 35-year-old re-signing with the club in December.

Davis was a key piece of the Royals' bullpen from 2013-16, appearing in two All-Star games and posting a 2.94 ERA with 47 saves over those four years. He had a 0.94 ERA as part of a vaunted ‘pen in '15 and posted a 0.36 ERA (one earned run in 25 innings) during the '14 and '15 postseasons with Kansas City, along with three victories and four saves.

Davis is 35 years old, and his fastball velocity has dipped from 93.2 mph in 2019 to 91.4 mph in '20. He struggled the past two years with Colorado, compiling an 8.65 ERA in 50 games (42 2/3 innings) in '19 and allowing 10 runs in five appearances (4 1/3 innings) in '20 as he battled a right shoulder strain before being released in September.

Royals general manager Dayton Moore said the Royals haven’t gotten a chance to see Davis throw in person, but through video and conversations with head athletic trainer Nick Kenney, the club is confident Davis is ready to go for Spring Training.

“He’s a remarkable competitor, a true pro,” Moore said. “I know the last couple seasons haven’t necessarily went the way he would like or expected, but I think some of this time off will do him well. I know he’s extremely motivated. He’s a remarkable talent and terrific competitor, and any time you can add that type of experience potentially to your bullpen is really important.

“We trust Wade. Wade tells us that he feels good and is ready to go, and I trust his input as well.”

The right-hander will have to earn his way into a bullpen that was a team strength in 2020, featuring Holland, Josh Staumont, Scott Barlow, Kyle Zimmer, Jesse Hahn and Tyler Zuber. But Davis has the history and experience -- a 3.81 career ERA over 12 seasons with the Rays, Royals, Cubs and Rockies -- and if he can get healthy, he could still provide value among a young relief corps.

Moore has said multiple times this offseason that bullpen depth, as well as pitching overall, remain target areas for offseason moves.

“We’ll continue to look for opportunity to continue to add depth,” Moore said. “There’s more opportunities to do that at this point in time, so we feel like we need to pursue as much quality pitching as possible.”

The Royals initially acquired Davis as part of a trade with the Rays in December 2012. After starting 24 games in 2013, he pitched exclusively out of the bullpen from 2014-16. Kansas City traded Davis to the Cubs in December 2016 in the deal that brought outfielder/designated hitter Jorge Soler to the Royals.

With Davis back, the Royals have two parts of their “HDH” trifecta from 2014-15 back in the organization with Holland and Davis. Kelvin Herrera, the third piece, is a free agent after pitching just 2 1/3 innings for the White Sox last year.