Edinson Volquez's one-year, $5 million contract with the Pirates became official Friday, as did Clint Barmes' one-year, $2 million deal.
To clear room on the 40-man roster, the Pirates designated reliever Ryan Reid and outfielder Jerry Sands for assignment.
Volquez, 30, a right-hander, likely will become the fifth starter in the rotation along with Francisco Liriano, Gerrit Cole, Charlie Morton and Wandy Rodriguez.
The signing shed light on the Pirates' plans to prepare for life without A.J. Burnett, who in the two months since they were eliminated from the playoffs has not decided if he will retire.
"It just means he hasn't chosen to come back yet," general manager Neal Huntington said. "We still have the door open and still have ongoing discussion."
Adding Burnett likely would force Volquez, who has appeared in relief five times in a nine-year major league career, to the bullpen. It is unlikely any other starter would move to the bullpen.
Volquez has more than six years of major league service, meaning the Pirates could not send him to the minors without his permission.
Though Burnett's return appears unlikely, signing Volquez does not necessarily preclude it. The move also adds depth to the back end of a rotation that is not set in stone.
"We've got people we feel good about, but we also have some questions left to answer," Huntington said.
Rodriguez missed the final four months of 2013 because of an injured flexor tendon in his left forearm. Jeff Locke had a 6.12 ERA and battled control issues in the second half of the season after a stellar first half earned him a spot on the All-Star team.
The Pirates, who believe in stockpiling starting pitching depth, could conceivably re-sign Burnett -- if he wanted to return -- and figure it out from there. It would not be the first time they had more starters on the roster than rotation spots available.
"The ability to have depth as a starting rotation is something that we feel strongly about," Huntington said.
Volquez made the All-Star team in 2008 with the Cincinnati Reds, striking out 9.5 batters per nine innings and compiling a 3.21 ERA. In parts of five seasons in the majors since then, Volquez has a 4.94 ERA and has walked 4.9 batters per nine innings. The 108 earned runs he allowed in 1701/3 innings for the San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers in 2013 were the most earned runs allowed by any pitcher in the National League.
"As we looked at Edinson, our scouts like his pitch arsenal," Huntington said. "The fastball, the breaking ball, the changeup, the action, the deception."
Pitching coach Ray Searage, bullpen coach Euclides Rojas and special assistant to the GM Jim Benedict, who often works with pitchers, have watched video on Volquez.
"They think there are some things we can help him with," Huntington said.
Volquez, a native of the Dominican Republic, signed with the Texas Rangers as an international free agent in 2001. He debuted with Texas in 2005. After that, he was involved in two major trades: The Rangers sent him to Cincinnati in 2007, along with Danny Herrera, for Josh Hamilton, and he went to San Diego along with Yonder Alonso, Yasmani Grandal and Brad Boxberger in exchange for Mat Latos in 2011.
The Padres released him in August. The Dodgers picked him up for the final month of the season.
Volquez became more hittable in 2013 than in previous years. He allowed 10.2 hits per nine innings last season after keeping that total to 7.7, 6.2, 8.5, 8.8 and 7.9 the past five seasons.
Barmes, 34, can earn an extra $1 million in bonuses based on games started. He will serve as a backup to shortstop Jordy Mercer, who is a better offensive player but not as strong defensively as Barmes.
"To have such a quality defensive player and such a quality teammate there as a complement or supplement, we felt it was a great depth move for us," Huntington said.
In his second year with the Pirates, Barmes hit .211 with a .249 on-base percentage and five home runs.
Sands, 26, joined the Pirates in the winter 2012 trade that also brought Mark Melancon, Ivan De Jesus and Stolmy Pimentel from Boston in exchange for Joel Hanrahan and Brock Holt. He hit .207 with a .311 on-base percentage and seven home runs in 397 plate appearances for Class AAA Indianapolis last season.
Reid, 28, a right-hander, made his major league debut with the Pirates in 2013. He struck out 56 batters in 591/3 innings with a 2.73 ERA for Indianapolis
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Bill Brink: firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @BrinkPG. First Published December 13, 2013 8:22 PM