Royals best trade chip is Hochevar

Hochevar, 29, is earning $4.56 million, a high salary for a setup reliever with a mid-revenue team. He has one more year of arbitration left before he becomes a free agent. And while he is pitching well, the Royals are deep in right-handed relievers and could easily replace him.

The Kansas City Royals have given little indication that they will trade veterans before the July 31 non-waiver deadline. But if they were going to make an exception, right-hander Luke Hochevar would be an obvious candidate.

Hochevar, 29, is earning $4.56 million, a high salary for a setup reliever with a mid-revenue team. He has one more year of arbitration left before he becomes a free agent. And while he is pitching well, the Royals are deep in right-handed relievers and could easily replace him.

The Boston Red Sox, a team searching for bullpen help, have had a scout following Kansas City the past week. They are interested in Hochevar, among many other relievers, but have not engaged in trade discussions with the Royals, sources said.

The Royals’ current direction, meanwhile, remains unclear — they are in third place in the AL Central, eight games behind the Detroit Tigers and 5 1/2 games behind the Cleveland Indians. They also are 10 games behind in the race for the second wild card.

Like all teams, the Royals are exploring ways to improve their club. But they made a major deal with the Rays for right-handers James Shields and Wade Davis last offseason, and seem unlikely to trade key contributors such as righty Ervin Santana, a potential free agent.

“Our philosophy isn’t going to change just because we’re six games under (.500),” general manager Dayton Moore told Fox Sports Kansas City last Thursday. “We’re not going to back off.”

Hochevar, who moved from the rotation to the bullpen this season, has posted a 2.00 ERA in 36 innings, striking out 38, walking 10 and allowing just 22 hits. He could be due for a regression, however — his opponents are batting only .214 on balls in play, 81 points below the AL average.

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