Royals and Edinson Volquez Agree to Two-Year Deal

Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

According to reports from Jon Heyman and Chris Cotillo, the Royals have agreed to sign free agent starting pitcher Edinson Volquez to a two-year, $20 million contract, pending a physical. The team has yet to confirm.

Volquez is coming off a strong showing for the Pirates, in which he pitched 192.2 innings with a 3.04 ERA. That number looks pretty snazzy, although once you adjust for park and league, his ERA- was just 14% better than average. That’s still solid, but it is a bit deceiving, because the 31-year old righty struck out 6.5 batters per 9 innings, walked 3.3 per 9, and had a FIP- of 116.

He’s a groundball pitcher, posting groundball rates above 50% in 4 of the past 5 seasons, and the Pirates are known for using plenty of shifts to make their excellent infield defense even more excellent. That surely helped Volquez perform above his peripherals for the first time since 2008.

Volquez has been pretty durable in the last few seasons, pitching at least 170 innings each year. That stretch came on the heels of a 3-year period in which Volquez pitched 49.2, 62.2, and 108.2 innings, so there is a bit of an injury history there, though it is farther in the past. The Royals are hoping he can continue to eat innings in the next 2 years, to help take some pressure off of their bullpen.

Dayton Moore also is hoping that the team’s defense will keep Volquez pitching at an above average level as he enters his age-32 and 33 seasons. We’ve seen the Royals defense do this before, helping Jeremy Guthrie and Jason Vargas to look better than their numbers suggest, so it’s certainly not out of the realm of possibility.

Another thing Volquez has going for him is his stable fastball velocity. His average heater has sat between 93 and 94 MPH since 2007, with the exception of the first part of the 2013 season. Age has not yet caught up to Volquez in that regard, which helps his case.

All that being said, this is still a bit of an odd fit to me. The Royals tend to favor flyball pitchers with solid command profiles, and Volquez checks off zero of those boxes. His 3.3 BB/9 was a career-best mark, and in his career, he’s walked 11.3% of the batters he’s faced. If his control regresses to something closer to that, his numbers will likely falter significantly. It’s difficult for the defense to make an impact when batters are receiving free passes so frequently.

I’ve never been a big fan of Volquez, and that control (or lack thereof) is quite scary for a pitcher who’s being guaranteed $20 million through the end of 2016. I’ll dig into more of his numbers and have a full write-up for you tomorrow, but for the time being, I can’t say I love bringing Volquez on board, despite his performance in 2014.