Sep 20, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals pitcher Luke Hochevar (44) delivers a pitch against the Texas Rangers during the eighth inning at Kauffman Stadium. The Royals defeated the Rangers 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
#1 Relief Pitcher: Luke Hochevar
My favorite option is Luke Hochevar. His similarity to Miller is uncanny, yet his upside is higher, and his price tag may be cheaper. Bringing back Miller would be a great thing, but Hochevar is the player I want more than anyone on this list. The former first overall pick was never able to become the ace starter that Kansas City hoped for. But a move to the bullpen in 2013 saved Hochevar’s career (as it did Miller’s) and finally revealed his true value.
As a starter, Hochevar was never able to best a 4.68 ERA, but in his first year as a reliever in 2013 he pitched 70 innings of pure dominance. With a 1.92 ERA, a .82 WHIP, and 2.0 WAR (an incredible number for a reliever), Hochevar set career bests across the board in his age 30 season. He also struck out 82 batters in those 70 innings, and it appeared as though Hochevar was finally ready to become a force for the Royals. Unfortunately, he was bit by the Tommy John bug in spring training this past year and was forced to miss the season.
And yet the Royals prospered without him. Behind elite closer Greg Holland, as well as RHPs Kelvin Herrera and Wade Davis, the Royals already have an elite bullpen in place without Hochevar, and the team doesn’t have the financial flexibility to invest in an area of strength. Hochevar is a Frankenstein hybrid of Miller’s potential and O’Flaherty’s value this winter. His current team almost certainly won’t retain him, he can be had for reasonable money, and there is a real chance he will be one of the best relievers in baseball next year.
And in my mind, he can definitely close. He’s got the talent, and he has experience starting so we don’t have to worry about the wear and tear that destroyed Koji. Hochevar is the reliever I want this offseason.