The Royals are planning to decline their $10MM mutual option on right-hander Edinson Volquez in favor of a $3MM buyout, reports Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports. The decision on Volquez is at least partially driven by a desire to decrease payroll from the 2016 season’s franchise-record mark of $144MM, he writes. Not surprisingly, the Royals are planning to exercise their $10MM option on closer Wade Davis and their $6.5MM club option on shortstop Alcides Escobar, Heyman adds.
There was a point at which some pundits pegged the 33-year-old Volquez as a potential qualifying offer candidate, but that always seemed like something of a long shot, and the veteran’s poor performance down the stretch likely eliminated any such notion on the Royals’ part. Volquez finished up the season with a 5.37 ERA, 6.6 K/9, 3.6 BB/9 and a 51.9 percent ground-ball rate in 189 1/3 innings, but his performance over the final three and a half months was notably worse than that ultimate ERA would indicate. Volquez’s ERA sat at 3.90 after a solid two-and-a-half-month stretch to open the year, but he labored to a 6.58 ERA over his final 104 innings. In that stretch, he surrendered 76 earned runs on 134 hits and 43 walks with just 72 strikeouts.
Ups and downs are nothing new for Volquez, who burst onto the scene as an All-Star and Rookie of the Year candidate in 2008 before trailing off to a roughly league-average starter in the two subsequent seasons and eventually dropping to the point where he was released by the Padres in 2013. Volquez, like many others, had a career renaissance in Pittsburgh in 2014, earning him a two-year, $20MM contract with the Royals that spanned the 2015-16 campaigns. While he delivered in the first season of that deal — 3.55 ERA in 200 1/3 innings — the second season was, clearly, not as successful. He’ll now hit a woefully thin free-agent market for pitchers and seek another resurgence — likely on a one-year deal.
As for Davis, Heyman writes that there’s a belief the Royals will at least entertain trade scenarios for the All-Star this offseason. That’s not a shocking development, as Davis’ name came up in trade rumors for much of the month of July before a forearm strain landed him on the disabled list through the non-waiver deadline. Trading Davis, of course, would be difficult, as the Royals would want to extract full value while other clubs may be wary about a pitcher that battled forearm issues on multiple occasions in 2016. Dealing Ian Kennedy would be an alternative means of shedding payroll, he notes, but from where I sit it’s difficult to envision dealing Kennedy even after a strong finish to the season. Kennedy’s contract is teeming with downside, as any acquiring club would likely would be faced with the risk of Kennedy opting out after just one season if he performs well but would be stuck with him at four years and a total of $62.5MM by virtue of his backloaded contract.
The Royals “aren’t anxious” to trade any of Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas or Escobar, Heyman adds, so Dayton Moore and his lieutenants will need to come up with some creative means in which they can trim some payroll. Kansas City does have Volquez, Kendrys Morales and Luke Hochevar coming off the books, but those subtractions will be canceled out by what figure to be substantial arbitration raises for Hosmer and Danny Duffy as well as built-in contractual raises for Kennedy, Cain, Moustakas, Alex Gordon, Joakim Soria, Yordano Ventura, Mike Minor, Chris Young and Salvador Perez.