Last year Edinson Volquez came out of the gate a lot better. His Padres debut on Opening Day was a bit rocky, but he still struck out 7 and only allowed 2 ER over 5 innings. His next start was much better and even though he hit a couple bumps in the road in late April, by mid May he looked like an asset. After 9 games he had a 2.93 ERA and 48 Ks in 55 1/3 IP. It looked like the Padres may have tapped into the success Volquez had in 2008, when he has an All Star, won 17 games for the Reds, had an ERA of 3.21 and pitched 196 innings. However, he would need Tommy John surgery after that season and was hit with a 50 game suspension for PED usage, so maybe we should have known that he would never maintain those sort of results.
Volquez finished 2012 with a 4.14 ERA over 182 2/3 innings. Certainly nothing to get excited about, especially with the Petco Park aiding those numbers. He that sort of season under his belt after a year with the Padres hopes were not especially high for 2013. It is also his last year before hitting free agency for the first time. There is certainly motivation on his part to play well for some big money and there is a need for the Padres to get a lot of innings out of a veteran starter while some of the team's more talented arms heal or ripen up. There is also a lot of faith in these parts that pitching coach Darren Balsley can fix issues pitchers have and Volquez' issues seemed fixable. So there he stood again on Opening Day pitching in a key role for the Friars. Some hope that he would be better than last year, but mostly hope that he would not be too bad.
We know what has happened. Opening Day was a disaster for Eddy. Much worse than just the rocky outing he had facing the rival Dodgers last year. His second turn in the rotation was better, but even after you take Coors Field into account it is still not one that builds confidence. There is certainly plenty of season left for him to bounce back. He has done that before after a bad stretch. However, a critical analysis of the situation will leave you asking some questions.
With Volquez going to free agency after this season, the Padres (and by extension, fans of the team) are only interested in what Volquez can do this season. We know he can eat innings, which will be fine for a while. Hopefully, there will come a time when those innings can be better used by others. Andrew Cashner will eventually need rotation work, Anthony Bass seems worth looking at again, Cory Luebke will return from the disabled list, Robbie Erlin will need some big league experience and there might be another arm or two that come knocking on the major league door. What will the team do?
There are 4 obvious options to explore for Volquez. 1. Let him pitch out the remainder of season. 2. Send him to the bullpen. 3. Trade him. 4 DFA and release him. The first makes sense if he turns a corner this season and the team (somehow) shows they are going to make some kind of run. After the first week of the season, this option has looked less viable with each start. Option 2 could work if Volquez looks somewhat better, but those other arms are ready and the team looks destined for mediocrity or worse. Option 3 is a tough one. It takes two to make a trade and the team taking on a veteran and his salary is usually a contender. Will a contender trust Volquez to be an asset after a change of scenery? The last option seemed mostly ridiculous not that long ago and probably has not even come up in the Padres' internal discussions. However, if the team is already considering options 2 and 3 then this one is not that much worse. If there are better uses for bullpen spots and no trade partner is found, then this option starts sounding better and better.
We are still a ways off from such a crossroads being that there are still innings to be eaten before a choice is needed, but the discussion can still begin. It is also worth mentioning that many of these same points can be made about Jason Marquis as well. However, he is a less interesting case in that he is much older, has never shown Volquez' promise and was not involved in a high profile trade made by the current Padres GM. Still, if his time runs out in San Diego it may be a sign to us that Volquez is next in line.