Saturday, October 27, 2012

Royals Claim Chris Volstad

The Royals wasted no time in their quest to upgrade the 2013 rotation. I must admit that I use "upgrade" loosely considering the move involved acquiring the tall, somewhat talented, and young Chris Volstad. The 6-8 right-hander is coming off a season in Chicago in which he went 3-12 with a 6.31 ERA (in the National League mind you). For his career, the former first round pick is 35-51 with a 4.87 ERA.

Let's focus on the good things regarding Chris Volstad. For instance, throughout his career he has shown a propensity to induce a high percentage (50.2%) of ground balls. Thanks to this, theoretically, Volstad's K:BB will never have to be too high in order to find some success. In fact, if Volstad can just get his K:BB over 2, he should be able to hold his own in a Major League rotation. Unfortunately, Volstad has done this just once in his career. In 2011, Volstad's K:BB came in at 2.39 and not coincidentally he posted the best xFIP of his career at 3.64.

Secondly, Volstad has age on his side and will be just 26 on Opening Day 2013. He just completed his first year of arbitration and will have two more years remaining before he is eligible to file for free agency. This could be viewed as either a positive or negative. On the positive side, if Volstad does rebound and right what appears to be a sinking ship, the Royals will be able to bring him back in 2014 at a fair cost. On the negative side, Volstad made $2.655 million in 2012 and will likely receive at least a small bump in pay for 2013.

At best, Volstad provides the Royals with a back up plan and perhaps even an alternative to tendering Luke Hochevar a contract. Hopefully, the Royals continue to operate with the notion that at least three starters need to be acquired. If for instance, the Royals are going to allow Volstad, Chen, and Mendoza to compete for the final two spots of the rotation, things could be worse.

What I can't help but believe is that in the Royals' minds they have just found an answer to one of their rotation holes. If you trust Bob Dutton, the Royals' budget would be stretched enough just to resign Jeremy Guthrie. If this turns out to be the case, then the Royals are only going to have the financial flexibility to bring in one additional starter, meaning that right now we may be looking at a rotation of Player X, Hochevar, Chen, Mendoza, and Volstad. Make no mistake that is an awful rotation.

At this point in time, Volstad is probably one of the best options available. However, the Royals don't have to build a rotation by November; the Royals have to build a rotation by March. What I fear, is that not only have the Royals just committed $3 million out of their budget, but have also taken on a great opportunity cost. If Volstad is taking up a spot in the rotation, that means the Royals have one less open space to, you know, actually find some improvement.

What is more concerning than this possibility, were Dayton Moore's comments regarding the move. By the sounds of it, he wanted to do everything in his power to tamper the expectations of a fan base that had recently been riled up by aggressive comments from ownership. Let's hope that these comments were simply an attempt to do that. If the comments turn out to be the truth regarding the offseason budget, the 2012-13 off season is going to be the one of the most disappointing in this franchise's history.

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