Pirates notebook: Volquez open to re-signing with team
ATLANTA — Bargain-hunting general manager Neal Huntington got it right last winter when he signed right-hander Edinson Volquez to a one-year, $5 million contract.
If the Pirates are interested in re-signing Volquez, who will become a free agent after this season, he said the feeling is mutual.
“Why not?” Volquez said. “I think I signed in the right place with the right coaches. They made me a better pitcher this year. So, I'd like to stay here.”
However, with one regular-season start remaining and the playoffs beckoning after that, Volquez is not worrying about which uniform he'll wear in 2015.
“Sometimes, when I'm sitting around at home, it crosses my mind, ‘Where will I be next year? What will I do?' But it's not a big deal for me,” Volquez said.
In 31 outings, Volquez has a 3.15 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP. He leads the staff with 12 wins; the only other pitchers to reach double digits are Gerrit Cole and reliever Tony Watson, who have 10 apiece.
For the money, Volquez has delivered superior production. His stats compare favorably to other pitchers in last offseason's free-agent crop.
Ervin Santana (14-10, 3.88 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 3.42 FIP) signed with Atlanta for one year, $14.1 million. Baltimore's Ubaldo Jimenez (5-9, 4.90 ERA, 1.54 WHIP, 4.75 FIP) got four years, $50 million. The Los Angeles Dodgers gave Dan Haren (13-11, 4.14 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 4.19 FIP) one year, $10 million.
In the Pirates' rotation, Volquez replaced A.J. Burnett (8-17, 4.57 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 4.07 FIP) who signed with Philadelphia for one year, $16 million.
“We're going to have to continue to find value where others don't,” Huntington said. “Bigger markets have the luxury to extend far beyond comfort levels, to pay an extra year or two, to pave over prior mistakes with more money. The successful small markets pay players based on what they believe they're going to do. They retain players they feel comfortable paying.”
A 10-year veteran, Volquez turned 31 in July. This offseason, he does not want to settle for another one-year contract.
“You always want to sign for more than one year,” Volquez said. “Especially now that I'm 31 years old, I'd like to sign with someone for two or three years and stay a little bit longer.”
Given the right circumstances, management is willing to offer a two- or even three-year deal to a pitcher in the 29-31 age range. The player's injury history, durability and effectiveness factor into the decision.
Volquez had Tommy John surgery in 2009, then returned to action less than a year later. Since 2011, he has averaged 28 starts per season.
McCutchen named team MVP
Andrew McCutchen won the Roberto Clemente Award in voting by the Pittsburgh chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America. Russell Martin and Josh Harrison tied for second place.
The award honors the team's most valuable player. McCutchen is the first four-time winner, having also been the top vote-getter in 2009, 2012 and 2013. Dave Parker and Andy Van Slyke won the award three times apiece.
For the second year in a row (and third overall), Neil Walker won the Chuck Tanner Award, which is given to the player who is most cooperative with the media.
The award for the team's top pitcher this year was designated the Steve Blass Award. In close voting, reliever Tony Watson finished ahead of Edinson Volquez and Mark Melancon.
It's the first time in the three-year history of the award that a reliever has won.
Double-A skipper fired
The Pirates fired Carlos Garcia, who managed Double-A Altoona the past two seasons. The Curve went 124-160 under Garcia, including a worst-ever 61-81 mark this year. Garcia will not be offered a different role in the organization.
“Every year we evaluate our staff and sometimes we have to make some really tough decisions,” Huntington said. “Carlos has been in and around the organization for many years, but we made a decision to go in a different direction.”
Without elaborating, Huntington said neither the Curve's record nor the discipline issues with infielder Alan Hanson spurred the decision to remove Garcia. Hanson was benched for multiple games midseason, although management declined to reveal the specific reason.
Garcia played for the Pirates from 1990-96 — he was their lone All-Star in 1994 — and was their first base coach in 2010.
Minor leaguer suspended
Third baseman Johan De Jesus, who was with the Dominican Summer League Pirates, was suspended 72 games without pay after testing positive for a metabolite of Nandrolone, a performance-enhancing substance. The suspension will be effective at the start of the 2015 DSL season.
De Jesus, 18, batted .190 with a .455 OPS in 54 games in the DSL this year.