Pirates Agree to One Year Deal With Edinson Volquez

The Pittsburgh Pirates have agreed to a one year deal with Edinson Volquez, according to Ken Rosenthal.

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.

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.

  • Is Paul Maholm currently a free agent? I don’t know how much it would take to sign him but he was always a good pitcher with not much support during his time with the Bucs. They could do a lot worse and may have done just that with this signing.

  • babeadamsforthehall
    December 12, 2013 8:00 am

    Wait. Let me get this straight.

    We don’t offer a frontline starter $14 mil for one year, a player who is worth more like $16 mil, essentially because we think that we can lowball him to take less. Then, we go out and spend $5 mil for this steaming pile? Are you serious?

    Talk about a misallocation of (self imposed) limited resources.

    • You nailed it Babe. Except that since AJ basically told them they could low ball him by saying it was the Bucs or retirement, how can you criticize them for what you think is low balling him? AJ doesn’t even know if he wants to pitch next year, regardless of how much the Bucs offer him. Or should they have broken the bank to make him play another year? Sounds like a good way to end up with a (n even more disgruntled) pitcher.

      I’m lukewarm on the Volquez signing, and frankly don’t see how anyone can be for or against it very strongly. It’s a relatively minor low risk/medium reward move. He’s had some success in the past and the Bucs obviously think they can help him be better this year. He seemed to pitch better after going to the Dodgers (lower walks and WHIP, higher Ks) in an admittedly very small sample size. But maybe he made some adjustments that they picked up on and think can continue next year. Others have talked about pitch selection and effectiveness in certain counts. That sounds like the easiest adjustment to make, as opposed to changing mechanics, location, etc. And it should be even easier with Martin behind the dish.

      I think the only legitimate criticism of the deal at this point is if it precludes them from making another deal. But seriously, who else would you want instead of Volquez? Arroyo? No thanks. Tim wants Hammel instead, but that’s debatable and Hammel will certainly cost more in $ and probably years too, when the Bucs have a wave of SP coming from the minors. And they say AJ’s still in play after this move, so you can’t argue that.

      • babeadamsforthehall
        December 12, 2013 9:50 am

        He could STILL have rejected the QO and been where we are right now. No need for him to be disgruntled. Except then if he decides to skip town to Baltimore or Washington or wherever, we get a draft pick. Instead we are trying to get a discount on a guy who could really help us in 2014.

        And Volquez is godawful. PETCO couldn’t even help him. When he walks the world he is fairly tough to hit, but it doesn’t matter because…well…he walks the world. Last year he drops his walk rate but gets hit bigtime. I don’t get it. Instead offering to pay market rate (or, as it turns out, below market rate) for a very good pitcher (in a year when we think we can actually contend), we instead offer an absolute chud $5 mil to give us 180 horrible innings.

        Ray Searage is not God. Just ask Jonathan Sanchez. And Jeff Locke in the second half last year. And J-Mac the year before. And….

        • Disgruntled is the wrong word. I should have said a pitcher whose heart isn’t in it. Let him decide if he wants to play first. Then we can have all of this song and dance.

      • I keep seeing comments like AJ told them he could be low-balled – signed for less…

        Could not disagree more – AJ is a by all accounts a proud man with a bit of attitude – if I were him I would feel I had been seriously dissed by the Pirates.

        If I were him I would pitch for Baltimore or the Nationals and stay home with the kids – and take $10-12M to just tweak the Pirates.

        • Then why tell the Bucs (and the world) that it’s Pittsburgh or retirement? Just so he could go back on his word? It doesn’t make any sense. Maybe you’d do that just to tweak the Bucs, but you haven’t already earned $120 mil in your career and been the MAN for the Pirates as they turn around the worst losing streak in history and worked with Searage the last 2 years to revive your dormant career. So he might have a different perspective than you.

          Also, has anyone noticed that there are exactly zero rumors of teams being tied to AJ? The one thing he seems to be is a stand up guy. Why not actually believe what he says until given a reason not to? Maybe it is as simple as the Bucs or retirement, regardless of all the noise around here.

          • Because when he said it was the Bucs or retirement he probably assumed – as most would – that the Bucs would not be a#sh$l%s and try and neck him around with a low ball offer. I said at the time – and still believe that a first class organization would have tendered the QO – then again we know that we don’t really have a first class organization – remember “Hoka Hey!” hell week crap – that arguably has held back Polanco for a year…

  • I very well could be wrong, but I think a move like this solidifies the chances of Justin Wilson or Melancon getting traded, you have to sell high on these guys. Only one of them though. My hopes are you can package Wilson and a prospect for a young blocked first baseman with years of control and platoon them part time with Gaby and bring them along the way we used Mercer this year before handing him the job. I’m not sure of any guys that fit that description in other organizations, but wondering if anyone has thoughts on this or ideas of any guys that do? This would give us the extra money from a cheaper young player at first and possibly let us sign AJ, and a decent backup shortstop.

  • $5MM for 180ish innings. Seems cheap. Risk is in getting what you are paying for (180 poor innings). Reward is we have a decent bridge (180 innings) to younger arms working in later 2014 and beyond.

  • Tim, you mentioned that you would’ve rather had Hammel. Could you explain why? I guess he had the more recent excellent year?

    Looking at both of their stat pages, nothing really jumped out to me that would make me pick one over the other other than the more recent good year. And that would be a perfectly good reason. But both look like good bets to throw like a decent #4 starter or so to me.

  • I keep reading how he could be the next Francisco Liriano but I think everybody forgot they also brought in another guy named Jonathan Sanchez last year too. Volquez numbers are closer to Sanchez than Liriano. If my memory serves me right Sanchez didnt make it to June. I’m betting Volquez won’t either. You don’t sign every projects to 5m per season. You bring them to camp as a non roster invitee.

    • Everyone keeps bringing up Sanchez.

      in 2012, Sanchez had an ERA over 8, xFIP and FIP of about 6.5…. and he was even brought in on a minor league deal.

      Sanchez’s results and peripherals BOTH sucked. They only started him in the majors out of necessity, if memory serves.

      Volquez still has skill.

  • What value does a 1 year contract have on a bounce back pitcher? Wouldn’t 2 years make a lot more sense?

  • We have Justin Wilson as a possible power lefty arm as a starter. Not many like him in starting rotations? Wasn’t Watson a starter as well at one time? Lots of team control.

  • Jonathan Sanchez 2.0

  • BallHeadWonder
    December 11, 2013 7:26 pm

    Why do you guys continue to “HATE” on every move NH does??? Last year it was about Liriano and Russell. This man has done nothing but change the culture of our team!! We are not the laughing stock of the league anymore!! We have the best farm in the Country!! Does the dude get any ounce of Love?? I know we have to critique and we can’t give the guy a free pass, but damn, it seems if we don’t make a move in the Winter Meetings, we are going to lose 100 games!! I am super confident in NH’s judgement. Now that we are winning, it is under more of a microscope, but cut the dude some slack!! I feel we will be better than we are next season!! 6 from 100 Baby!! Let’s get it!!

    • Unbridled optimism is better and more warranted than skepticism?

    • Neal’s done some pretty stupid things too, like not giving Aki a physical and signing guys like Inge, Diaz, and other scrap heap “clubhouse” guys who couldn’t outhit Clint Barmes. Neal’s done great work compared to Littlefield and Bonifay, but that doesn’t mean he gets a free pass.

      • BallHeadWonder
        December 11, 2013 9:26 pm

        Big Scott,

        Not Giving NH any free pass!! I totally agree on your post. We have to be able to be subjective and give our opinions, but to hear “Pirate Fans” say we are going to have a losing season and NH has no clue what he’s doing is disgusting!! It’s easy to sit on the couch and criticize every move, but when you put their tails in the “Cooker”, they have no clue in hell on what to do. NH has made some bad moves and some moves I know he would love to take back, but overall, this dude has bought “OUR TEAM” out of basement to respected now!! I used to watch the Pirates for the month of April for 20 years!! It was awesome to follow the whole summer the past few years!! That credit goes to Neil and Clint!!!

    • I hate this move and I LOVE NH!

      Foo

  • We’ll have to reserve judgement to see how this signing works out. The contract for 1 year/5m is not high risk in terms of baseball’s current economics, and it sounds like Volquez has talent and “stuff”. In my mind a better signing than Arroyo where you’re paying for someone to eat innings and be basically “average” or less. It will be interesting to see if Searage can bring out his best potential. The Pirates do need pitching depth with AJ & Wandy uncertain. They should consider whether Justin Wilson can be converted to a starter…also is Karstens done with the shoulder issues? He was reasonably effective when healthy and might be another cheap depth option….

  • I don’t like this if this means burnett’s gone.

    However, the stats show that there is a very good chance that he throws 180 innings of 4 ERA ball. I don’t get the outrage.

  • per Tim: “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.”
    – I totally agree, but think it would be more appropriate to wait til after the Playoffs !
    Oh, and I like the signing too. I’m betting the Bucs staff did their due diligence and see something with Volquez they can work with. If not , $ 5 mil for the Bucs won’t impact the future of the team.

  • I like the signing Volquez. I will like it a lot less if it is to replace Burnett, though.

  • The Pirates could have got a similar pitcher, actually even better gb% in Fausto Carmona (Roberto Hernandez) for much less than $5M. Career better WAR, between 7-10% better gb%, and over 1.4 bb/9 less.

    That would have been a gamble I would have taken.

    • I’m completely with you on Carmona/Hernandez. Volquez is 3 years younger, but otherwise, Hernandez looks to have better numbers. Neither has had a good WHIP in the last few years.

      The one thing we don’t know is Hernandez’ asking price, but $5M does seem high for what Volquez brings to the table. And I really hope it has no impact at all on their ability to sign AJ and to get a 1Bman.

      Locke is looking more tradeable now, though I’d rather let him have another couple shots at figuring it out here. I’d hate to see him become a good pitcher elsewhere.

    • Agree 100%.

      Comparing Volquez to Jonathan Sanchez:
      IP: 850 / 786.1
      K/9: 8.42 / 9.11
      BB/9: 4.75 / 5.00
      HR/9: 0.97 / 1.04
      BABIP: .306 / .294
      GB: 48.1 / 40.7
      HR/FB: 12.0 / 10.3
      ERA: 4.75 / 4.70
      FIP: 4.36 / 4.42
      xFIP: 4.17 / 4.38
      WAR: 5.9 / 6.3

      As you can see, Jonathan Sanchez is arguably the better pitcher of the two.

  • I like Liriano last year. This one has me sitting on the fence for sure.

  • I am hoping that, if he has a good spring, we can move him for something good.

    Otherwise….

  • Charlie is probably thinking he gave too much of a discount. Hoping for his sake that he got a no trade clause.

    I think Volquez is a thrower and not a pitcher. If he is willing to become a pitcher then he can start, otherwise he should be more of a spot starter bullpen guy. I would think getting him should not preclude Bucs interest in getting AJ back.

  • CalipariFan506
    December 11, 2013 5:39 pm

    I must be crazy because this seems like a good risk to me.

    • I agree! Not to long ago he was pretty solid in Cinncy’s bandbox stadium. He was valued as a top of the rotation guy. Clearly Ray has a lot of work to do but to me this is a good low risk – high reward move. Yes 5 mil in this market is low risk.

    • You are crazy. I’d rather see Bartolo Colon used as a pinch-runner than see Volquez throw one pitch.

      That said, you’re not as crazy as Andrew Filiponi, who also made me drive into pole on my way home by stating Bucs should’ve taken on both LoMo and Hart and used Hart (who has no knees left) in the OF while stating that LoMo was the perfect power-hitting platoon complement to Gaby. All while also screaming that Morton was being overpaid.

  • everyone that is hating on this deal was probably the same people that hated on the Liriano deal and probably the russel martin deal,lets see what happens before we make a judgement,theirs bull pen arms that got more then 5mill this offseason

    • I don’t know about that. Nearly everyone agreed that Liri was high risk high reward. Volq seems like a similar risk but with significantly lower upside, and at only a little less money.

      • Cato the Elder
        December 11, 2013 9:42 pm

        Assuming we are talking about Liriano’s pre-injury contract, I think the risk vs. reward is similar. Lower ceiling for sure, but it is less money, less years, he is not going to be counted on to be a top of the rotation starter, and he is not without the raw tools to be a solid #3 or very good #4. Sure, he could be terrible, but then again, it is easy to forget that Liriano could have been a more expensive terrible over two seasons.

    • BAM. Right on.

    • Liriano was coming over from the AL where he faced the DH and had better career numbers (significantly in case of FIP/xFIP and bb/9)…and he wasn’t coming from the best pitchers park in baseball!

      Petco Park was the #30 park in runs scored last year and #29 in hits given up…and Dodger’s stadium was #24 in hits (PNC Park #17)…Edinson Volquez at $5M is baffling.

  • Volquez had the same xFIP- as Jason Vargas and Jorge De La Rosa last year. They are getting paid a lot more. xFIP- is more predictive than ERA, but unless PNC + shifting goes a long way, I’m nervous about this.

    But hey, it’s just 1yr/5m.

    • For those of you who value Contract%, it’s worth noting that Volquez has the 9th lowest rate of 139 qualified pitchers over the past three seasons. The top 30 of that list is basically a who’s who of elite pitchers, Volquez being the odd man out.

  • Alright Ray Searage, let’s see what ya can do!

  • Pirates find a pitcher they can afford. Or put another way, the Pirates take on another team’s garbage.

  • Hope this works out but so far this looks like offseason from hell. Career low whip is 1.33

  • Don’t like the $5 million. When Volquez bombs, they’ll at worst put him in the bullpen because of what he’s owed, won’t just cut ties with him. Hope this doesn’t deter them from adding another SP.

  • Yeah, not a Liriano comparison, Liriano walked a batter less per nine and career xFIP was almost half a run lower, before coming to the Pirates. I guess that HR/FB rate will drop.

    • Also pedestrian whiff rate off of curve 10.82%, change up whiff rate of >20% prior to last year, in 2013 dropped to 14.09% and he only threw it 24% of time when he was ahead in count. Before last year threw it 40% of the time when ahead, was his out pitch, so this correlates with the career low K rate of 7.50 K/9. He started throwing his curve when ahead last year with only 12.14% whiff rate, so Pirates staff has some work to do.

  • Generally prefer to see a team option tacked on when we take a risk like this, in case the guy does figure it out.

  • Are there statistics out there about how much or how little SanDiego and Dodgers employed shifts? If under-employed, then Neal might look at that as another metric. Looks like he’s pitched a lot of innings last couple of years, so just as an “innings eater” guy, this could be okay. I imagine Neal is picturing ERA around 4.00 after Ray tutelage, shifts, GB%, K%, framing strikes, bounce-back, luck, hard hit balls, etc. It is becoming a system and it doesn’t seem to matter as much who’s throwing the ball (at times). Evidence Cumpton. Also it’s just plain depth for the rotation, which at some point he had to pull the trigger.

  • Volquez is going to be Rays biggest project yet. If he can get him to that next level I think he will be recognized as the best pitching coach in the league (he may already be the best).

  • K% and GB%. NH loves him some K% and GB%.

  • Did Neal just read that Jason Stark tweet and go, yeah lets do that.

    • Just thinking about watching him pitch for the Bucs makes me sick…

      • Its just one year, and it doesn’t mean Burnett is definitely not coming back. Let’s give the man a chance with Uncle Ray before we bury him.

  • $5 mil seems a little steep, but they must like something that they see in him. Glad it’s only 1 year.

  • Didn’t see that one coming.

  • Holy hell.

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