As recently as late July, veteran right-hander Edinson Volquez’s goal was simply to rehabilitate an elbow injury sufficiently enough to return to a big league mound before season’s end. After that, he suggested, retirement was his likeliest path. However, a return to health appears to at least have him reconsidering that trajectory. Volquez tells Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News that he “might” consider a return, though likely only to the Rangers organization. “If they want me around to help the young guys, that’s a possibility,” said Volquez.
It’s been a pretty smooth return to the mound for Volquez, who has allowed two runs on four hits and three walks with three strikeouts in six innings of relief since returning from the injured list. He’s managed to average a hefty 95.6 mph on his heater in that short-relief role — an increase over the 93-94 mph he averaged while working as a starter with the Pirates, Royals and Marlins from 2014-17. Texas has been judicious in affording Volquez ample rest between relief outings; he’s yet to pitch on consecutive days and hasn’t tossed more than 27 pitches in a single appearance.
Whether the Rangers have interest in Volquez retaining Volquez remains to be seen, though the Texas organization certainly has prioritized instilling some veteran experience in its clubhouse in recent seasons. And the team thought highly enough of Volquez to not only sign him to a two-year minor league contract after his 2017 Tommy John surgery but also select his contract last November to prevent him from being eligible to be selected in the Rule 5 Draft. (Yes, even at 35, he’d have been eligible for a team to take and plug into its pitching staff.)
Any reunion with Volquez would surely be on an affordable deal. He’s pitched just 13 2/3 innings in the Majors since undergoing Tommy John surgery in September 2017 when he was a member of the Marlins’ rotation and turned 36 years old back in July. But there’s enough uncertainty on the Rangers’ pitching staff — both in the rotation and in the bullpen — that Volquez could be a sensible low-cost depth piece.
In the rotation, the Rangers are currently slated to be led by veterans Mike Minor and Lance Lynn. Young lefty Kolby Allard has likely done enough to cement himself as a favorite for one of the three remaining spots, and the Rangers seem likely to pursue some additional veteran upgrades this winter as they look to field an improved team in the first season of a new ballpark. It’s unlikely they’d simply commit a rotation spot to Volquez, but allowing him to battle for the fifth spot in camp with the fallback of a bullpen role could make sense.
Alternatively, the club could just look to try Volquez in a relief role for the whole season. As previously noted, his velocity has improved in that role. It’s also not as if the Rangers’ relief corps is largely solidified. Jose Leclerc and Jesse Chavez are under contract for next season, and the Rangers hold a reasonable $2.5MM option on another veteran righty who has voiced a “Rangers or retire” mentality: Shawn Kelley. Beyond that veteran trio, 24-year-old lefty Brett Martin has thrown rather well, while reclamation project Rafael Montero has posted exceptional K/BB numbers in a smaller sample of work. As with the rotation, the bullpen has a few veteran locks but some room for competition further down the ladder. Texas seems likely to pursue some established offseason upgrades but could at the very least have Volquez compete for a spot in 2020 — particularly with MLB rosters set to expand to 26 players next year.