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Should the Royals hang onto Edinson Volquez and make a Qualifying Offer?

They don't have to trade Eddie.

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

The Royals have just hours left to decide whether or not to trade Edinson Volquez or hang onto him for the rest of the season. The starting pitching market is thin, making it a seller’s market. However, that does not necessarily mean teams will offer good prospects for mediocre to marginal starting pitchers, and the trade of Wade Miley last night to Baltimore for a 27-year old minor leaguer suggests that perhaps the market isn’t as hot as previously thought.

Edinson Volquez has a $10 million mutual option for 2017 that will almost certainly be declined by him to explore free agency in what will be a very poor market for starting pitchers. The thin market is headlined by pitchers like Jeremy Hellickson, Andrew Cashner, and Rich Hill, with Volquez in that mix. If the Royals fail to trade the veteran right-hander today, they could end up with nothing. Or will they?

The Royals could hang onto Volquez and make him a Qualifying Offer (even if his option is declined), which has to be $16.7 million for this year. A Qualifying Offer can be made to a player to receive free agent compensation the following year. However, Volquez is free to accept that offer, and could play for the Royals in 2017 on a one-year, $16.7 million deal.

Would the Royals risk Volquez accepting their offer? They certainly would love to bring him back on a one-year deal, especially with how thin the starting rotation is looking for 2017. However $16.7 million is a lot to swallow, especially for a rather mediocre pitcher. True, Ian Kennedy is due to make nearly the same ($13.5 million) in 2017 for pretty mediocre results, but can the Royals really afford to pay two mediocre pitchers that much?

On the other hand, Volquez might be a good bet to reject it. With such a thin market, it seems possible that some pitching-starved team will want to lock Volquez on a long-term deal - possibly three or four years - and he could make $10-14 million per year if the market gets crazy. True, he is 33, but he has a pretty good track record the last three seasons despite an erratic early part of his career, and if the other options are underwhelming, teams may go for the guy with post-season experience.

Let's take a quick look at who received Qualifying Offers last year.

Player Age 2015 rWAR 2013-2015 Avg rWAR
Brett Anderson 27 1.5 0.6
Wei-Yin Chen 30 3.8 2.5
Chris Davis 29 5.2 4.5
Ian Desmond 30 2.0 3.2
Marco Estrada 32 3.6 1.9
Dexter Fowler 29 2.2 2.0
Yovani Gallardo 29 2.4 0.8
Alex Gordon 31 2.8 4.5
Zack Greinke 32 9.3 5.8
Jason Heyward 25 6.5 5.5
Hisashi Iwakuma 34 2.4 4.0
Howie Kendrick 32 1.1 3.3
Ian Kennedy 30 -0.4 0.3
John Lackey 37 5.7 3.2
Daniel Murphy 30 1.4 1.7
Colby Rasmus* 28 2.6 2.8
Jeff Samardzija 30 0.2 1.3
Justin Upton 28 4.4 3.5
Matt Wieters* 29 0.8 0.7
Jordan Zimmerman 29 3.5 4.0

*-accepted the Qualifying Offer

Volquez is 33 years old, is on pace to be about a 1 WAR pitcher, which means he would have averaged 2 WAR in each of the last three seasons. Brett Anderson and Howie Kendrick are outliers, as they were made Qualifying Offers by the Dodgers, of whom money is no object. Volquez would certainly not be the worst free agent given a Qualifying Offer (how did Ian Kennedy land a five-year deal again?) but he would be the oldest worst pitcher. At his age, he may not get a four-year deal, especially if a team has to forfeit a draft pick to sign him. Accepting the Royals offer may be his best bet.

This could technically apply to Kendrys Morales, as he will also be a free agent this year. But the Qualifying Offer will be as much as he was paid the last two years combined, and he would almost certainly accept a one-year tender at that amount. With Kendrys’ shaky track record recently - remember we were ready to release him in May, and his 2014 season was a disaster - and the fact that even at his best he is a 1 WAR player due to not contributing on defense, the Royals simply cannot afford to offer Morales a Qualifying Offer.

The Royals may find feeble offers in the trade market for Volquez, so making a Qualifying Offer may be a gamble worth taking, even if it simply gets Volquez back to Kansas City for one more year. However, in the end, I don't think the Royals will make such an offer, nor do I think it would be prudent for them to do so. The Royals have about $105 million committed to players for 2017, with arbitration cases for Eric Hosmer, Danny Duffy, Kelvin Herrera, and Jarrod Dyson. With finances so tight, and with rumors of an Eric Hosmer long-term deal, the Royals may not be willing to take a risk of committing nearly $17 million for Edinson Volquez.

Hopefully, the Royals are able to move Volquez today for a package that can help them more than a draft pick. But ultimately, they may be left with a difficult choice on Eddie.