Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Pirates Extend Morton, Sign Volquez

HOT STOVE BASEBALL. Or, something like that. Today the Pirates made pretty much the first move of the season as they extended Charlie Morton and signed free agent pitcher Edison Volquez.

First, lets start with Morton. He is coming off probably his best year as a professional. He didn't pitch the entire year thanks to Tommy John surgery that put him on the shelf until the middle of June. That did not stop Morton as he posted a 3.26 ERA and got ground balls at a ridiculous 62.9% rate. While he isn't a strikeout pitcher he did strikeout 6.59 batters per nine innings which was the highest rate since 2010. Morton also continued with improved control with a 2.79 BB/9 rate and cut his home run rate in half.

The deal is for three years and is worth $21M which could possibly be a four year deal worth as much as $10 if the Pirates decide to exercise that option. It also comes with a $1M buyout. The pay breakdown with $4M coming in 2014 and then $8M over the next two years. Morton was going to get $4M in his final year of arbitration so essentially this is a two year deal worth $17M when you factor in the buyout.

The thoughts are pretty positive on this deal from what I was able to see during the day and overall I think this is a really good deal for both sides. Morton was pretty outstanding last season and posted a 1.3 WAR in what was essentially half a season. If the Pirates can get anywhere close to that over the next couple years then this is going to be a pretty big steal. In a system where relief pitchers are getting $7M contracts for multiple years it is nice to have a guy in your rotation who has had success sign for that in free agent years.

I just can't help but not like this deal though. If Morton can stay healthy he really has a chance to be a middle of the rotation guy for the Pirates and if the the Pirates get to the point where he is the number four or five then that is even better. If he has another shoulder/elbow injury then this could turn out pretty bad but sitting here right now I can't complain about this in the least bit.

The Pirates then went out and got the guy they want to fix in Edison Volquez. He is going to get one year, $5M and while Volquez has been wildly awful every year he's been in the big leagues sans 2008 he does bring some upside and if the Pirates are able to turn him into even a average MLB starter then Ray Searage and Jim Benedict should be given all the awards they want.

Last season Volquez pitched for both the Padres and Dodgers and compiled a 5.71 ERA in just over 170 innings pitched. Volquez does have some upside as his career strikeout rate is 8.42 but the bit problem is that he walks an amazing amount of hitters. His career rate is 4.75 talks per nine innings and two of the last three season he has walked more than five hitters per nine innings.

Here is the look at Volquez:

Year Tm W L ERA GS IP H R HR BB SO ERA+ WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2005 TEX 0 4 14.21 3 12.2 25 22 3 10 11 33 2.763 17.8 2.1 7.1 7.8 1.10
2006 TEX 1 6 7.29 8 33.1 52 28 7 17 15 64 2.070 14.0 1.9 4.6 4.1 0.88
2007 TEX 2 1 4.50 6 34.0 34 18 4 15 29 102 1.441 9.0 1.1 4.0 7.7 1.93
2008 CIN 17 6 3.21 32 196.0 167 82 14 93 206 137 1.327 7.7 0.6 4.3 9.5 2.22
2009 CIN 4 2 4.35 9 49.2 34 25 6 32 47 97 1.329 6.2 1.1 5.8 8.5 1.47
2010 CIN 4 3 4.31 12 62.2 59 30 6 35 67 95 1.500 8.5 0.9 5.0 9.6 1.91
2011 CIN 5 7 5.71 20 108.2 106 72 19 65 104 69 1.574 8.8 1.6 5.4 8.6 1.60
2012 SDP 11 11 4.14 32 182.2 160 88 14 105 174 87 1.451 7.9 0.7 5.2 8.6 1.66
2013 TOT 9 12 5.71 32 170.1 193 114 19 77 142 60 1.585 10.2 1.0 4.1 7.5 1.84
2013 SDP 9 10 6.01 27 142.1 168 100 14 69 116 57 1.665 10.6 0.9 4.4 7.3 1.68
2013 LAD 0 2 4.18 5 28.0 25 14 5 8 26 86 1.179 8.0 1.6 2.6 8.4 3.25
9 Yrs 53 52 4.75 154 850.0 830 479 92 449 795 83 1.505 8.8 1.0 4.8 8.4 1.77
CIN (4 yrs) 30 18 4.17 73 417.0 366 209 45 225 424 101 1.417 7.9 1.0 4.9 9.2 1.88
TEX (3 yrs) 3 11 7.20 17 80.0 111 68 14 42 55 64 1.913 12.5 1.6 4.7 6.2 1.31
SDP (2 yrs) 20 21 4.96 59 325.0 328 188 28 174 290 71 1.545 9.1 0.8 4.8 8.0 1.67
LAD (1 yr) 0 2 4.18 5 28.0 25 14 5 8 26 86 1.179 8.0 1.6 2.6 8.4 3.25
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/11/2013.

He brings a good fastball that averaged almost 93 last year and his best secondary pitch is an 83 mph change-up and supplements that with a curveball. The curveball is not great but it passes and gives him a third pitch.

A lot of people are going to compare this to Francisco Liriano and while I do see some of that I don't think it is necessarily a parallel comparison. Liriano was a much better pitcher throughout his career with a couple of bad season while Volquez is a guy who had one splash year with the Reds in 2008 and has been pretty awful the rest of his career.

I think that the Pirates have earned a little bit of slack with things like this as they have proved they can turn pitchers around. A.J. Burnett and Liriano have been success stories but in the other corner there are guys like Erik Bedard and Jonathan Sanchez who haven't worked out. Obviously every signing like this won't work out but as some might say there are no bad one year deals. If it doesn't work then it doesn't work but there absolutely is some upside with Volquez and we will see what the pitching coaches can do with him.

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