After filling holes in right field with Alex Rios and designated hitter with Kendrys Morales, the Royals still find themselves searching for a replacement for free agent starting pitcher James Shields. While they began this off-season attached to names in the "mid-tier" starting pitching pool with guys like Brandon McCarthy, Ervin Santana, and Brett Anderson, many of those names have signed for amounts larger than expected, leaving the Royals to sift through the remaining options.
One such option for the Royals may be Pirates pitcher Edinson Volquez. Chris Cotillo reports that there may be some buzz between the two parties.
Have been hearing some Edinson Volquez-#Royals buzz today, though it's unclear if the sides are close to a deal.— Chris Cotillo (@ChrisCotillo) December 17, 2014
The Dominican-born Volquez has 66 wins in six big league seasons with a career 4.44 ERA with the Rangers, Reds, Padres, and Pirates. He was 13-7 with Pittsburgh last year with a career-best 3.05 ERA although a 4.15 FIP. His strikeout rate was way down last year at 6.54 per nine innings, but his walks also came down to 3.32 per nine innings. Volquez had probably his best season his rookie campaign with the Reds, after being acquired in a trade from the Rangers for Josh Hamilton. He won 17 games his rookie season in 2008 with a 3.21 ERA and over a strikeout per inning. That 3.9 fWAR season is the only one in his career where he has posted over 1.5 fWAR in a season. He was suspended 50 games in 2010 for using performance-enhancing drugs.
Volquez still throws in the low 90s, relying heavily on a changeup and sinker. He has a 48.5% ground ball rate in his career. At age 31, the right-hander is one of the younger free agent pitching options left in a market that includes old veterans like Jake Peavy, Ryan Vogelsong, and Chris Young, as well as young pitchers with injury concerns like Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy. Steamer projects Volquez to have a 4.61 ERA with a 4.33 FIP as a 0.8 fWAR pitcher. Jon Heyman predicted a three-year $33 million contract for Volquez at the out-set of the off-season, but with the market drying up, the price should go down. A contract more like Fangraphs' prediction of two-years, $17 million is much more likely.
EDIT: Its a done deal. Two years, $20 million. Rejoice.
Sources: Volquez to #Royals, pending physical. 2-year, $20M deal.— Chris Cotillo (@ChrisCotillo) December 17, 2014