Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Volquez introduced: 'Marlins were my first choice'

A major piece of the Marlins' pitching puzzle is officially in place. The club announced the signing of Edinson Volquez to a two-year deal on Thursday afternoon.
The 33-year-old reached agreement with Miami on Monday. Now that the physical exam and all the paperwork are finalized, Volquez, who spent the past two seasons with the Royals, helps solidify the Marlins' biggest area of need.
"It was an obvious need," Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill said. "I speak a lot about our desire to add pitching and to add pieces that we think can help us. In Edinson Volquez, you have a veteran, experienced All-Star, world champion. He will fit nicely on our staff and gives us another proven starter who logs innings. We think he can have a really good year."
Per team policy, the Marlins don't announce financial terms, but MLB.com has confirmed Volquez has signed for $22 million, and he will make $9 million in 2017 and $13 million in '18.
Volquez has lived in Miami for the past three years, and he said the Marlins were his first choice.
"I wanted to sign right away," said Volquez, who will wear No. 36. "I wanted to know right away where I was going to be. The Marlins were my first choice. I'm here."
Volquez joins a rotation that already includes lefties Adam Conley and Wei-Yin Chen and right-hander Tom Koehler.
Volquez also brings a winning pedigree to a Marlins club that expects to compete for a playoff berth in 2017. The righty spent the past two seasons with the Royals, going 13-9 with a 3.55 ERA in 34 games (33 starts) during their '15 World Series championship campaign.
Volquez is 89-79 with a 4.44 ERA in his 11-year career.
The signing reunites Volquez with Jim Benedict, the Marlins' vice president of pitching development. Benedict and Volquez worked together in Pittsburgh in 2014, when the right-hander went 13-7 with a 3.04 ERA over 32 appearances (31 starts) and 192 2/3 innings.
"That was definitely a big part of it," Hill said. "Jim Benedict, our vice president of pitching development, was familiar with Edinson from their time in Pittsburgh. When we started our offseason meetings, and we started to identify pitchers we felt could be a good fit for us, [Volquez] was at the top of our list. Someone who has had a lot of success at every level of his career.
"We really felt like getting him here, putting him in our ballpark, and putting him with Bennie and [pitching coach] Juan Nieves, we felt like it would be a nice fit."
Miami remains in the market for at least one more starter, which may be addressed next week at the Winter Meetings. The rotation help has become the highest priority in the aftermath of Jose Fernandez's death on Sept. 25 in a boating accident.
No one starter can duplicate all Fernandez, a two-time All-Star, did for the club and the community. But Volquez has a track record for logging innings, throwing at least 170 1/3 innings in each of his past five seasons.
"I know this team had a big loss last year with Jose Fernandez," Volquez said. "That was a very sad moment for the entire MLB. I'm not going to try to be him. I'm going to try to be me. In a short period of time, I watched him pitch and he was one of the best pitchers in baseball. I just want to be myself, get some wins and bring the crown back to Miami."
Volquez also offers postseason and championship experience. The native of the Dominican Republic was part of the Royals' 2015 World Series title team. But in 2016, he dropped in production, going 10-11 with a 5.37 ERA in 34 starts and 189 1/3 innings.
The Marlins used 13 starters in 2016 and are looking for durability, which Volquez has traditionally provided.
"I was a little tired last year," Volquez said. "I was trying to push myself to do a better job. I think I put a lot of pressure on myself to be better than I was the year before. It wasn't working. Now, I have plenty of time to recover. I can now help this team try to win."
A sinkerball pitcher, Volquez showed good velocity in 2016. According to Statcast™, his sinker averaged 93.53 mph, above the MLB average of 91.78. The spin rate of the pitch was 2,291 rpm, compared to a league average of 2,111.
Not overpowering, Volquez pitches to contact, averaging 6.61 strikeouts per nine innings in 2016.
Volquez has a chance to prosper at spacious Marlins, where home runs are harder to hit. Also, Miami has terrific overall defense, especially in the infield. Volquez posted a 1.77 ground-ball/fly-ball ratio and a 51.2 ground-ball percentage in 2016.

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