Chris Volstad Rumors

NL Notes: Phillies, Reds, Rockies, Figgins

As players, coaches, and front office personnel begin to arrive in Florida and Arizona for Spring Training 2013, let's take a look at the news and notes from the National League:

Rockies Notes: Tulo, Giambi, Chacin, Volstad

Four years ago today, the Rockies avoided arbitration with third baseman Garrett Atkins by agreeing to a one-year, $7.05MM contract making him the second-highest paid player on the team behind only Todd Helton. The Rockies, however, didn't get their money's worth. After averaging a slash line of .301/.363/.480 the previous four seasons, Atkins' 2009 numbers dropped to .226/.308/.342 and was non-tendered that winter. He played just 44 games with the Orioles in 2010 before being released midseason and hasn't seen any MLB action since. Let's take a look at the news and notes coming out of the Mile High City today:

  • Coming off an injury-plagued 2012, Troy Tulowitzki was the subject of several trade rumors this offseason. "It was a weird thing – the first time I had ever had any trade rumors," Tulowitzki told's Thomas Harding. "Any normal person is going to start to think, 'What if this? What if that?' But I can't control those things. Whatever happens, happens, but I definitely want to stay."
  • Jason Giambi has received calls from a few teams and is working out five days a week, as he is determined to continue his playing career, reports Troy E. Renck of the Denver Post.
  • Better health of the pitching staff and improved defense are two reasons why fans should have hope for the Rockies, Renck writes within the same article. Renck cites Jhoulys Chacin as a prime candidate for a bounceback year because of his strong finish last season, his new two-year, $6.5MM contract, and a repaired relationship with the front office.
  • Renck feels right-hander Chris Volstad will receive a long look in Spring Training, especially with his former Marlins pitching coach Mark Wiley now working for the Rockies as their new pitching coordinator (via Sulia).

Rockies Sign Chris Volstad

The Rockies have signed Chris Volstad to a minor league deal worth $1.5MM, reports Troy Renck of the Denver Post (via Twitter). The Moye Sports Association client will compete for a spot in Colorado's rotation.

Volstad, 26, spent the 2012 season with the Cubs where he posted a 6.31 ERA with 4.9 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9 over 111.1 innings. The towering right-hander will look to regain the success he enjoyed with the Marlins earlier in his career.

Minor Moves: Volstad, Pena, Balester, Solarte, Buck

Here are Wednesday's minor moves…

  • Right-hander Chris Volstad and catcher Brayan Pena have rejected their outright assignments and elected free agency, the Royals announced (on Twitter). Both players were designated for assignment last week.
  • The Rangers have signed Collin Balester to a minor league contract with an invitation to Spring Training, reports Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (on Twitter). The 26-year-old right-hander allowed 14 runs in 18 innings for the Tigers this year while pitching to a 3.64 ERA in 47 Triple-A innings.
  • The Rangers have also signed Yangervis Solarte to a minor league deal with an invite to Spring Training according to Morosi. The 25-year-old infielder hit .288/.340/.405 with 11 homers in 568 plate appearances for Texas' Triple-A affiliate this season.
  • The Padres have signed Travis Buck to a minor league contract with an invitation to Spring Training, report Baseball America's Matt Eddy (on Twitter). Buck, 29, hit .216/.284/.311 in 81 plate appearances for the Astros this year.
  • The Padres also re-signed catcher Eddy Rodriguez and right-hander Daniel Stange to minor league deals with invites to camp, according to Eddy. The 26-year-old Rodriguez went 1-for-5 with a homer for San Diego this year, his big league debut.

Royals Designate Seven For Assignment

The Royals announced that they designated seven players for assignment to create 40-man roster space for players who would otherwise have been eligible for the Rule 5 draft. The Royals designated right-handers Vin Mazzaro and Chris Volstad, left-hander Ryan Verdugo, catcher Brayan Pena, infielder Clint Robinson and outfielder Derrick Robinson for assignment.

The Royals, who are also designating catcher Adam Moore for assignment, now have a full 40-man roster. They selected the contracts of left-handers Chris DwyerDonnie JosephJohn LambJustin Marks and Mike Montgomery, and right-hander J.C. Gutierrez in related moves.

The move could amount to an early non-tender for two players. Pena was on track for a salary in the $1.1MM range as a third time arbitration eligible player. Meanwhile, Volstad projected to earn $3MM as a second time eligible player.

Royals Claim Chris Volstad

The Royals claimed Chris Volstad off of waivers from the Cubs,'s Carrie Muskat reports (on Twitter).

Volstad, 26, had been a non-tender candidate in Chicago following a season in which he posted a 6.31 ERA in 111 1/3 innings. The 6'8" right-hander provides Kansas City with some rotation depth. In the four seasons leading up to 2012, he posted a 4.59 ERA with 5.8 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9 as a member of the Marlins' rotation.

Volstad earned $2.7MM in 2012 as a first time eligible player and his salary can't be reduced by more than 20% if he's tendered a contract through the arbitration process. In fact MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projects a slight raise to $3MM for Volstad.

Non-Tender Candidate: Chris Volstad

Chris Volstad’s most recent start provided a reminder of two things: that Volstad can pitch effectively against MLB offenses, and that it’s been a long time since he did so with much regularity. The 6’8” right-hander faced a Dodgers lineup including Shane Victorino, Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Hanley Ramirez over the weekend and limited Los Angeles to two runs on six hits in seven innings. Yet Saturday's start was Volstad's first seven-inning outing of the season, and the first game in which he allowed fewer than three earned runs.

It’s been a disappointing season for Volstad to this point, and he will be a non-tender candidate this coming offseason. When the Cubs acquired Volstad from Miami for Carlos Zambrano, he seemed capable of providing value at the back of Chicago's rotation by making his starts, limiting walks and inducing ground balls. He had averaged 29 starts per season in the three years preceding the trade while posting a 4.88 ERA, accumulating twice as many strikeouts as walks, and generating more than his share of ground balls.

However, the results have been disappointing so far in 2012. Volstad opened the season in Dale Sveum's rotation, then got demoted after posting a 7.46 ERA through eight starts. He joined the rotation at Triple-A Iowa, posting an unremarkable 5.17 ERA with 6.6 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 in 12 starts in the Pacific Coast League. The Cubs recalled him from Iowa last week, so he has the chance to prove he belongs at the MLB level — now and in 2013.

Volstad earns $2.66MM this year and he’ll get a raise through the arbitration process if the Cubs tender him a contract next winter. He has pitched enough innings at the MLB level this year that he projects to obtain a $3.1MM salary in 2013, according to MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz. Yes, he’s on track for a $450K raise despite a career-high 7.22 ERA, a diminished strikeout rate and an unsightly 0-8 record. The Cubs must decide between now and the middle of December whether another season of Volstad is worth $3MM-plus.

Though his stat line isn’t pretty, bad luck may be a contributing factor to Volstad’s season — to an extent. Opponents are hitting .319 on balls in play against Volstad, a career high. It's an indication that he isn't getting much help from luck or Chicago’s defenders. No MLB pitcher has a lower strand rate than Volstad, who allows nearly half of baserunners to score (min. 50 IP). Though he's probably due for some regression, it's not uncommon for pitchers who have trouble generating swings and misses to allow a relatively high percentage of baserunners to score. And if any MLB pitcher has trouble inducing swings and misses, it’s Volstad. He generates the lowest percentage of swinging strikes among the 192 MLB pitchers with at least 50 innings in 2012 (4.6%, tied with Bartolo Colon and Henderson Alvarez). In other words, it’d be overly optimistic to say Volstad's numbers are simply a product of bad luck. 

Volstad’s in the rotation for now, which means he has the chance to string together some more strong starts before the season ends. But if he fails to impress, the Cubs may choose to non-tender Volstad this winter and look elsewhere to strengthen the back of their rotation.

Players Avoiding Arbitration: Tuesday

Dozens of arbitration eligible players have agreed to deals with their respective teams today and we've been tracking all of the developments right here.  Several teams, including the Rays, Nationals, Marlins, White Sox, Blue Jays, Braves, and perhaps Astros, are known for committing to going to hearings if they get to the point of filing.  Keep track of all the madness with MLBTR's arbitration tracker, which shows settlement amounts, filing figures, and midpoints.  Today's players to avoid arbitration on deals worth less than $4MM:


Epstein On Zambrano, Volstad, Soriano

The Cubs officially traded Carlos Zambrano to the Marlins for Chris Volstad today, paying all but $2.5MM of the $18MM owed to him next year. President of baseball operations Theo Epstein spoke to reporters after the trade was announced, so let's recap…

  • "Best case scenario is that if it did work, [Zambrano would] be leaving as a free agent at the end of the year," said Epstein to's Carrie Muskat. "Or, if we had to spend that money anyways as a sunk cost, would we rather spend it on a 25-year-old who we can put in our rotation and control for three seasons? That made a lot more sense."
  • "At some point in the future, if there's a transaction that makes sense with any of our players that puts the Cubs in a better position moving forward, we are going to pursue it," said Epstein to ESPN's Chicago's Bruce Levine. "But in respect to [Alfonso Soriano], he has power and is an offensive contributor. We can work with him to get the best out of him and see where that takes us."
  • A couple of teams have inquired about Soriano according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter), but so far the Cubs have been unable to find a match. The outfielder still has three years at $18MM per season left on his contract.

Marlins Agree To Acquire Carlos Zambrano

The 2012 Marlins just got a little more interesting. In case Ozzie Guillen, Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell didn’t add enough intrigue to the upcoming season, the team has officially acquired Carlos Zambrano from the Cubs for Chris Volstad. The Marlins will pay $2.5MM of Zambrano's $18MM salary in 2012.

Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein had a productive meeting with Zambrano after the season, but the right-hander hadn't seemed wanted in Chicago for a while. The Cubs placed Zambrano on the disqualified list last summer following an August outburst and declined to play him in September, after his 30-day suspension ended.

Icon_9153103Zambrano waived his no-trade clause to play for Guillen, his friend and fellow Venezuelan. Zambrano also waived his $19.25MM option for 2013, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (all Twitter links). His deal now includes a $100K bonus for winning Comeback Player of the Year in 2012. Zambrano settled his summer grievance with the Cubs, obtaining 24 days of salary (nearly $2.4MM), according to Rosenthal.

The deal gives the Marlins a projected rotation of Buehrle, Josh Johnson, Anibal Sanchez, Ricky Nolasco and Zambrano. It presumably takes the Marlins out of the running for another Cubs starter: right-hander Matt Garza.

Zambrano, 30, posted a 4.82 ERA with 6.2 K/9, 3.5 BB/9 and a 42.4% ground ball rate in 145 2/3 innings for the Cubs in 2011. He has spent his entire 11-year career with the Cubs and earned nearly $100MM in the process. Zambrano, a three-time Silver Slugger, owns a .241/.251/.395 career line as a hitter and has hit 23 home runs. The Cubs signed him out of Venezuela in 1997 under former GM Ed Lynch.

Volstad, a 6'8" right-hander, posted a 4.89 ERA with 6.4 K/9, 2.7 BB/9 and a 52.3% ground ball rate in 165 2/3 innings for the Marlins in 2011. His career numbers (4.59 ERA, 5.8 K/9, 3.1 BB/9, 50.4% ground ball rate) show he's a steady if unspectacular back-of-the-rotation option. However, he's homer prone and struggles against left-handers, as MLBTR's Mike Axisa pointed out earlier in the offseason.

The 25-year-old former first rounder projects to earn $2.6MM through arbitration in 2012 and will remain under team control through 2014, which makes him a relatively affordable medium-term option.

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports first reported that the teams were nearing a deal (Twitter links). Jon Heyman of, Juan C. Rodriguez of The Sun Sentinel and Bruce Levine of ESPN Chicago also contributed to the story as it broke. Ben Nicholson-Smith contributed to this post. Photo courtesy of Icon SMI.