Sep 20, 2013; San Diego, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Edinson Volquez (30) throws during the third inning against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
So the Bucs signed starting pitcher Edinson Volquez today. I like it, and here’s five reasons why.
$5 million dollars for a free agent starting pitcher in this day and age is not a lot of money. I know it’s hard to believe, but it just isn’t that much for a pitcher in the MLB. I look at what guys around the league have been getting so far this offseason, and I can barely recall any free agent pitchers who have signed for less than $5 million a year. It’s a low-risk, high-reward situation and the Bucs can cash in if Volquez has a half-decent season.
I’ve been reading it on Twitter all day long. “Volquez sucks!” “Why would they sign this bum?!” All that good stuff. Sure, the last few years have been rough for Volquez, and since his breakout season for the Cincinnati Reds in 2008, he’s struggled as a pitcher. His ground ball rate fits the criteria that the Pirates look for and he strikes out a good bit of batters. His velocity is pretty good, too.
Sep 17, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher A.J. Burnett (34) reacts on the field before playing the San Diego Padres at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
3. Burnett still isn’t out of mix
Neal Huntington has straight up said that the Bucs can add a bounce back candidate and still look into resigning A.J. Burnett. A.J. has been the talk for all Pirate fans this off season and we still don’t know whether or not he’ll be back. Since the deal is only for $5 million dollars, the chances of Burnett returning are definitely not out the door.
4. There are alternatives if Volquez doesn’t work out
If we somehow see a Jonathan Sanchez repeat and Volquez is an absolute disaster, there are immediate replacements who can fill his spot in the rotation. Assuming Volquez is the fourth or fifth starter in the rotation on Opening Day, there are a few guys who can replace him if he’s unable to get it done. Jeff Locke is one of those guys, and he showed last year he can start games at the big league level. Jameson Taillon will all but surely be called this upcoming summer, and there are other guys who can work out of the bullpen if need be. As of now, without Burnett, the March 31st starting rotation looks to be Francisco Liriano, Gerrit Cole, Charlie Morton, Wandy Rodriguez, Volquez/Locke. Six guys who can all start games, and that’s all assuming Burnett doesn’t return.
5. Possibly a repeat of Liriano from last season (AKA bounce back potential)
Liriano is better than Volquez, there’s no debating that, but their paths to becoming a Pirate are both pretty similar. They each broke out in the early stages of their careers, and then struggled, bounced between a couple teams, and eventually wound up on the Pirates where they were given a solid opportunity. Liriano took advantage of that opportunity after having a few down years with Minnesota and Chicago, and Volquez, who might not have the kind of stuff Liriano has, can definitely follow in the footsteps of Liriano in that category with the help of Ray Searage and the rest of the Pirates staff.
All-in-all, I like this move. The chances of Volquez being a bust for the Pirates are definitely there, but I can definitely see the 30-year old having a bounce back season.