The Pittsburgh Pirates have agreed to a one year deal with Edinson Volquez, according to Ken Rosenthal.
Sources: #Pirates, free-agent RHP Edinson Volquez in agreement on one-year, $5M contract, pending physical.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 11, 2013
I’m not sure what this says about the future of A.J. Burnett. Neal Huntington has said in the past that the Pirates could add a bounce back candidate and still have room to add Burnett.
Volquez wouldn’t be my top choice as a bounce back guy. He has definitely under-performed his advanced metrics. Last year he had a 5.71 ERA and a 4.07 xFIP. In 2012 he was better, with a 4.14 ERA and a 4.20 xFIP. In his career he has a 4.75 ERA and a 4.17 xFIP.
One big problem with Volquez is that he walks too many batters. In his career he has a 4.75 BB/9 ratio. This isn’t a Francisco Liriano situation where he had two years of control issues. Volquez has been 4.00 or worse every year of his career except 2007, when he had a 3.97 BB/9 in 34 innings. He was 5.00 or worse in four out of the last five years, with the exception being 2013 (4.07). I’d say that he could benefit from Ray Searage, but pitchers usually don’t rebound from control problems that last this long. If Searage fixes his control, the Pirates should give him a statue outside of PNC Park the day after the end of the regular season.
Now on to the things Volquez does well. He gets a lot of strikeouts, with a career 8.42 K/9 ratio. He gets a lot of ground balls, with a 48.1% career rate. He’s got good velocity, with an average 93.4 MPH fastball in his career, although that dropped to 92.5 in 2013. He can also throw a lot of innings, with 170 last year and 182 in 2012.
The strikeouts and ground balls would definitely play with the Pirates’ system, and Volquez has some good stuff. But those command issues could really limit his upside. In his best years he posted xFIP numbers around 3.75-4.20, mostly hovering around 4.00. I think the best case with his walk rate is that he limits it to something close to 4.00. If that happens he might be able to put up something better than league average numbers, but that seems to be the best case scenario. Overall this will be a pretty big test for Ray Searage, Jim Benedict, and the rest of the guys who worked their magic on A.J. Burnett and Francisco Liriano.
UPDATE 7:00 PM: Travis Sawchik says that the deal for Volquez won’t impact Burnett.
Club source says if Volquez deal becomes official it does not preclude club from signing AJ Burnett
— Travis Sawchik (@Travis_Sawchik) December 11, 2013
The 2014 payroll page has been updated, and the Pirates are at just under $73 M after this deal. If they add a first baseman, and a backup middle infielder, plus the usual in-season moves, I could see them finishing above $90 M. Of course that’s assuming the first baseman gets James Loney money. If the first baseman was cheaper, they could still afford Burnett.