The biggest concerns for the Royals this offseason, was how are they going to replace losing veterans Billy Butler and James Shields to free agency? Kansas City first answered the bell offensively, by going out and acquiring veterans Kendrys Morales and Alex Rios.
“Big Game” James just came off pitching 200+ innings for the eighth straight year. In search of replacing Shields’ productivity, Kansas City brings in Volquez following perhaps the best season of his career.
Volquez completed the 2014 regular season with a 13-7 record and a career best 3.04 ERA. The 31-year old also earned a start in the Pirates’ 2014 Wild Card Game after going 9-1, while only allowing 23 earned runs (1.85 ERA) over his final 17 starts.
Volquez’s first 10 years of his career has been a roller coaster ride filled with many ups and downs.
During his first three seasons (2005-07), Volquez spent a lot of time in the Rangers minor league system. Volquez was then traded to Cincinnati in 2008, where he found success in his first full MLB season. He made the All-Star Game and finished with a 3.21 ERA.
In the seasons that would follow, Volquez hit hard times. In 2009, he missed most of the season with Tommy John Surgery. The ensuing year he was suspended 50 games for performance enhancing drugs. From 2011-13 he moved around like a nomad playing for three different teams, while also bouncing around in the minors before finally finding success in Pittsburgh this past season.
After a sensational rookie campaign, the flame throwing Yordano Ventura will most likely take over as the ace of the rotation. In addition, Jason Vargas heads into next year coming off one of the best seasons of his career.
Outside of Ventura and Vargas there is some uncertainty and vulnerability in Kansas City’s starting staff heading toward the 2015 season.
When healthy, Danny Duffy is perhaps the most talented starter the Royals have, but there lies the problem. Duffy has only been healthy enough to start 56 games over his first four seasons.
At 35, Jeremy Guthrie’s performance will likely begin to decline over the next few seasons.
Other possible replacements include Brandon Finnegan and Kyle Zimmer. Both will most likely need time and experience before becoming starting pitchers in the big leagues. If Kansas City doesn’t add another starter this offseason, expect Volquez to push Vargas and Duffy for the number two spot in the rotation.