Reds reel in Volquez from Rangers
Cincinnati sends Hamilton to Texas for pair of pitchers
The Reds acquired a pitcher in a trade with the Rangers on Friday they felt was as coveted as two of their own elite prospects -- Homer Bailey and Johnny Cueto.This right-hander's name is Edinson Volquez. And the steep price needed to get Volquez was sending outfielder Josh Hamilton to Texas. Cincinnati also received Minor League left-handed pitcher Danny Herrera in the deal. "I look at this as kind of a quality-for-quality or value-for-value type of trade," Reds general manager Wayne Krivsky said. The 24-year-old Volquez was the Rangers' Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2007 after working through three different levels and the Major Leagues. Combined at Class A, Double-A and Triple-A, he was 14-6 with a 3.67 ERA and 166 strikeouts over 144 2/3 innings. With Texas, he was 2-1 with a 4.50 ERA in six starts. Teams had inquired about Hamilton during the offseason. Talks between the Rangers and Reds opened before the Winter Meetings earlier this month. "It's taken some time to fall into place," Krivsky said. Compared to Hamilton, Volquez lacks name recognition for Reds fans, but the organization's 2008 expectations are high. "This trade would not have been done unless we felt like he was not only ready to compete but win a job in our rotation in '08," Krivsky said. "To give up a guy the caliber of Hamilton, we had to feel very good that the pitcher coming back could help us in '08." A Dominican Republic native, Volquez first reached the Majors with Texas in 2005 as a 21-year-old. He was a September callup again in 2006, but he went all the way back to Class A ball before last season. Krivsky wasn't concerned about the yoyo-esque movement of his new pitcher. Instead, Reds scouts like the 6-foot-2, 210-pounder's fastball that lives in the 92-94 mph range but can reach 97. They also like his other pitches. "He's an athletic guy with a live arm," Krivsky said. "He's got some charisma. He's got some animation on the mound. He's got a hard curveball that acts a little bit like a slurve at times. His changeup is a well above average pitch to go with that fastball. He's got impressive stuff, and it's just a matter of him maturing and commanding that stuff to where when he does that, he'll be a good solid winner in the Major Leagues." Herrera, 23, was the Rangers' 45th-round selection in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft, but it didn't take long for him to reach Double-A, where he spent most of 2007. With Frisco, he was 5-2 with a 3.78 ERA in 34 relief appearances. Krivsky's scouting reports cited his above average offspeed pitch as a plus. Cincinnati has endured pitching questions for the past several seasons, but it is beginning to collect some promising young arms. Besides prospects like Bailey and Cueto, who could be in the Majors this season, the organization also has Matt Maloney. The left-hander has impressed since coming over from the Phillies in a July trade for Kyle Lohse.
However, the Reds still have only two established Major Leaguers in the rotation in Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo. Krivsky didn't rule out adding a veteran arm. The club reportedly has been pursuing Orioles ace Erik Bedard, among others, but it has maintained silence on its intentions.By moving Hamilton after he spent just one season in Cincinnati, the Reds clearly bought low and sold high. Hamilton was claimed in the Rule 5 Draft by the Cubs from the Rays in December 2006 and dealt to the Reds in a prearranged trade. A former overall No. 1 Draft pick by Tampa Bay in 1999, Hamilton missed most of the 2003-06 seasons because of drugs, suspensions and injuries. The 26-year-old quickly became one of baseball's biggest feel good stories. Despite the rust of a nearly four-year layoff, he batted .292 with 19 home runs and 47 RBIs in 90 games and became the regular center fielder. Hamilton was the National League Rookie of the Month in April, but nagging injuries limited his production. He missed 58 games because of issues that included a stomach ailment, a sprained wrist and a strained hamstring. Krivsky said the club wasn't moving Hamilton because of durability questions. "When you haven't played for four years and never gone through a 162-game schedule, and as much as he played for us, you're bound to have a few more injuries than the next guy," Krivsky said. "It was a learning experience for him. He went through the grind for the first time in his career. If you told me he would put up the numbers that he did when we drafted him, I'd be thrilled." Hamilton, who was embraced by the community, said he was surprised by the trade. He was informed on Thursday and went to Texas on Friday to take a physical. "I think I was in the right place for coming back to baseball," Hamilton said. "Cincinnati welcomed me with open arms. Who would have ever thought that a city would pay attention to a guy that never played baseball before [and would give me such a nice reception] on Opening Day? I enjoyed playing there and spending time with the fans." Deep with outfielders, including top prospect Jay Bruce, the Reds also have Ryan Freel, Norris Hopper and Chris Dickerson who can play center field. Krivsky called the starting center field spot "open for competition." "We're trading from our position of depth in the organization," Krivsky said. "I think that allowed us to consider a guy like Hamilton. It was also what was coming back that was the important thing."
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.