The KC Royals could let Edinson Volquez leave when his contract expires at the end of the 2016 season. The decision will depend on how far general manager Dayton Moore can push the payroll.
Like many Kansas City Royals free-agent signings, Edinson Volquez has a mutual option tacked on to the end of his contract. Kansas City could try to extend Volquez’s deal for $10 million for one more year. If either party declines their option, the KC Royals will have to pay a $3 million buyout.
Volquez’s numbers don’t look very good this season. He’s 10-11 with a 5.40 ERA in 175.0 innings pitched. According to Baseball-reference, Volquez has been worth -1.0 bWAR—which is less than replacement level. If the team believes that measure is an accurate assessment of what they can expect from him going forward, Volquez isn’t worth $10 million.
However, if the Kansas City Royals instead put more weight on his adjusted Fielding Independent Pitching (xFIP), he’s very much worth a $10 million extension. If we eliminate things that pitchers cannot control and focus on outcomes such as walks, strikeouts, and home runs, then Fangraphs.com estimates Volquez should have an ERA around 4.45.
By that metric, Volquez has been worth 1.6 fWAR (Fangraphs.com Wins Above Replacement) this season. Since free agent prices ran close to $8 million per projected WAR last winter, Volquez would be a bargain at $10 million.
All of this suggests that Volquez might accept the $10 million mutual option. While he would like a bigger contract, he might believe that he’s incapable of capturing value coming off a poor statistical season. The problem is the free agent pitching market figures to be very thin this winter. Even the soon-to-be 33-year-old Volquez could draw a multi-year offer despite his high ERA.
A team that buys into the sabermetric Fielding Independent Pitching model could discount Volquez’s 2016 results and offer him a multi-year deal. Volquez might then take it because it could be his last chance for a large contract.