When a 1.87 ERA is nearly double what you've averaged the previous two seasons, the bar's been set extremely high. Wade Davis did exhibit a couple of yellow flags last season, most notably dropping a mph off his fastball, missing time with a flexor strain in his pitching elbow and a second straight year of a declining strikeout rate. Plus, his walks spiked. However, as usual, Davis did a remarkable job keeping the ball in the yard, not allowing a homer for the second time in three seasons. The righty reliever closed out September with seven scoreless outings, fanning nine with just one walk over those seven frames, which helped ease the residual injury concern. Even with the velocity drop, Davis sported an elite 9.8 K/9. Davis may not be one of the first couple closers off the board in 2017, but he still belongs in the top 10 especially after joining the winningest team in baseball in a December trade. If you prefer to pay for saves, Davis should be on your shopping list.
Davis was officially dealt to the Cubs on Wednesday in exchange for Jorge Soler, MLB.com's Jeffrey Flanagan reports. The trade had been rumored for more than 12 hours before it finally became a done deal. It makes sense for both clubs, as Soler would have only been used as a weapon against left-handed pitchers if he remained on the Cubs, and the Royals have bullpen depth to deal from. Davis, who will be a free agent after the 2017 season, will presumably serve as the Cubs' closer, provided they do not sign Kenley Jansen or Aroldis Chapman. A second half elbow issue and a slight dip in velocity compared to his 2015 readings should prompt some caution. His strikeout rate fell from 31.1 percent in 2015 to 26.7 percent last season, and his 9.1 percent walk rate was his highest mark since 2013. That said, it is a pretty favorable situation for Davis, as he will have an excellent defense playing behind him and should be the closer on a team that has a chance to win 100-plus games.
Davis will be traded to the Cubs on Wednesday in exchange for Jorge Soler, pending physicals for both players, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports. It will be a straight one-for-one swap, with the deal likely to be finalized later in the day. The addition of Davis, who is set to become a free agent next winter, signals that the Cubs plan to insert them into the closer's role in place of Aroldis Chapman, who is seeking a long-term contract. Though he regressed a little bit during an injury-plagued 2016 campaign, Davis was still quite exceptional when healthy, turning in a 1.87 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and 47:16 K:BB ratio over 43.1 innings. With Davis headed to Chicago, Kelvin Herrera and Joakim Soria are now the top in-house options to assume closing duties for the Royals.
The Royals picked up their $10 million option on Davis' contract for the 2017 season, Jon Heyman of Today's Knuckleball reports. Davis will figure to return as the Royals' closer for the 2017 campaign, as he threw for a 1.87 ERA and 1.13 WHIP over 45 games (43.1 innings) in 2016. However, he made multiple stints on the DL over the course of the season, courtesy of an elbow strain as well as a forearm issue. When all was said and done, he'd picked up 27 saves across 30 opportunities.
Davis is garnering a lot of interest on the trade market, Jon Heyman of Today's Knuckleball reports. It seems odd that a team that values defense and bullpen pitching so highly would be willing to move one of the most consistent relievers in baseball, but it seems the Royals would be willing to move Davis in order to clear up some cap space for the upcoming season. This year's closer free agent market includes Aroldis Chapman, Mark Melancon, and Kenley Jansen, all of whom seem primed to command extremely high prices, so Davis could be a huge bargain for teams without that much money to spend. It's unknown who's all in the running for the 31-year-old's services, but no matter where he lands, Davis will likely be leaned upon very heavily during the upcoming season.
Davis allowed two hits and struck out two in a scoreless ninth inning Sunday to pick up his 26th save of the season in a win over the Tigers. While he looked a bit shaky in early September after coming off the DL, Davis now sports a strong 12:1 K:BB in 6.2 innings over seven appearances on the month and appears to be back in top form.