AP source: Royals, Hochevar agree to 2-year deal

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Right-hander Luke Hochevar and the Kansas City Royals agreed to a $10 million, two-year deal that should give the defending American League champions even more firepower in their bullpen.

Hochevar will make $4.5 million this season and $5.5 million for the 2016 season, a person familiar with the terms told The Associated Press on Wednesday. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because Hochevar must pass a physical to complete the agreement.

Hochevar missed last season after Tommy John surgery.

Despite the need for a starting pitcher to replace James Shields and a designated hitter to replace Billy Butler, the Royals have chosen to first lock down their pricy but effective bullpen.

They have already exercised their option on setup man Wade Davis, which means he will earn $7 million next year - a big jump from the $4.8 million he made last season. That decision also triggers an $8 million option for 2016 with a $500,000 buyout. And if the Royals exercised that, they would have a $10 million option for 2017 with a $250,000 buyout.

All-Star closer Greg Holland remains under club control through 2016, but he's eligible for arbitration and likely will earn more than $9 million next season.

Add to the mix right-hander Kelvin Herrera, who handled most of the seventh-inning duties last season and will likely see a bump to about $1.5 million through arbitration, and the Royals could have $22 million tied up in four relief pitchers for the 2015 season.

Of course, that's assuming all of them are still on the roster by spring training.

The Royals have been open to the possibility of trading one of their prized relievers, and Holland would net them the most in return. With few impact bats available in free agency, a trade might be the best route for the Royals to address their gaping hole at designated hitter.

It also remains to be seen just how effective Hochevar will be after Tommy John surgery.

The former No. 1 overall draft pick struggled for years as a starting pitcher, going 11-11 with a 4.61 ERA in his best season. He drew the ire of Royals fans tired of losing, and became a not-so-pleasant face of a franchise that had been treading in baseball's backwater.

But then Hochevar shifted to the bullpen fulltime in 2013, and he proved to be a dynamic relief pitcher. He went 5-1 with a 1.92 ERA, blowing away hitters with a upper-90s fastball.

The Royals toyed with moving him back into the starting rotation last spring training, but they ultimately decided to keep him in the bullpen. Not long after that decision was made, the right-hander felt a twinge in his elbow. An MRI exam take a couple of days later revealed a major tear of the ulnar collateral ligament, resulting in Tommy John surgery.

Hochevar spent the season rehabbing, but he also never strayed far from the clubhouse. And when the Royals went on a magical run to the World Series in its first playoff appearance in 29 years, Hochevar was right in the midst of it, rooting on his teammates every night.

Now, after a long wait, it appears he'll have a chance to help them out on the field once more. Hochevar is expected to be ready to pitch when the Royals report to Surprise, Arizona, for spring training in mid-February.

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AP Sports Writer Ronald Blum contributed to this report.

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