By Jason Shetler
In the last handful of seasons, the Pirates have taken on reclamation projects in their rotation such as A.J. Burnett, Charlie Morton and Francisco Liriano. Another project was Edinson Volquez, who the Pirates signed for $5 million in December of 2013. The signing was widely criticized, as Volquez had been a below league average pitcher for five straight seasons before coming to Pittsburgh, and was essentially going to replace Burnett.
Not only was 2014 a turnaround year for Volquez, but his 3.04 ERA was the best on the staff. It was also the lowest ERA by a Pirates right-handed pitcher with at least 30 starts since Doug Drabek in 1991. Following that season, the Pirates and Liriano agreed to a three-year deal for $39 million, and it likely meant that they wouldn’t be able to re-sign Volquez. That wound up being the case, as he signed with the Kansas City Royals on a two-year contract worth $20 million, which included a mutual option for 2017.
Volquez was a vital part in helping the Royals capture their second World Series title in franchise history in 2015. He posted a 3.55 ERA with an ERA+ of 119, while pitching 200 innings for the first time in his career. Despite the passing of his dad during the Fall Classic, Volquez pitched very well in Game 5, which led to the series clincher over the New York Mets.
This season however hasn’t been great for the defending World Series champions. MLB Network insider Jon Heyman recently said that the Royals could be sellers at this year’s trade deadline. Among the trade candidates, Heyman mentioned Volquez as a possibility. In 20 starts, he’s put up an ERA of 4.72, but has a more respectable 4.13 Fielding Independent Pitching. His groundball rate is still very good at 53%. Because Volquez isn’t having a strong season, the Pirates wouldn’t have to give up much to acquire him. In addition, the Royals would likely take on most of his remaining 2016 salary. Jon Niese and Jeff Locke are both replacement level pitchers this year, and Volquez would be an upgrade with a 1.4 WAR. If the Pirates are looking to buy low on a starter that would better the rotation in the process, then perhaps Volquez is put into consideration.