Greg Holland had a historically dominant season in 2013. Will Dayton Moore cash in while his value is at its likely peak? Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas City Royals Should Sell High on Greg Holland


In the first few weeks of the offseason, Dayton Moore will begin to address some serious questions about next year’s team. Moore announced the return of Ned Yost as Manager, but how will he work to improve Yost’s roster to move the Kansas City Royals closer to contention for a division championship and into the playoffs? How will he replace Ervin Santana in the rotation, assuming they are unable or uninterested in resigning him? How will he improve our horrendous offense, adding a bat at third base, right field, second base, or upgrade at shortstop?

The answer to at least one of those questions could be trading Greg Holland, and Dayton Moore would be wise to listen to offers on the Royals’ all-star closer. We’ve been down this road before, and should remember what happened when we signed Joakim Soria to a long-term deal: he regressed, was injured, and went to Texas while the Royals received nothing in return.

Barring a large infusion of David Glass’ money to pursue multiple high-profile free agents, Moore will have to plug at least one of the holes with a trade. In any trade, you have to give value to get value. Greg Holland offers significant value. Not only that, he could easily be replaced by the strongest bullpen in the American League. And despite the pre-emptive panic you might be feeling about next year’s ninth innings, Holland is unlikely to repeat his dominant 2013 performance.

Let’s repeat that, just for good measure: Greg Holland will likely never be as dominant as he was in 2013. He will be good, to be sure. He may even be excellent. But in retrospect, this year will almost definitely be Greg Holland’s peak season. He set a Royals team record for saves in a season with 47, but he was statistically dominant, even by historical standards. It was by far the best by a Royals reliever, and one of the best by a reliever all-time.

This year Greg Holland put up a nasty 1.36 FIP (Field Independent Pitching), best in all of baseball for any pitcher with more than 60 innings pitched. To put that in perspective, Mariano Rivera ranked 46th this season with a 3.05 FIP (Luke Hochevar was 40th with a 2.96 FIP — he’s definitely found a home in the bullpen). Holland was far and away the best reliever in baseball this year.

By comparison, here are the best seasons in FIP for the top 10 leaders in career saves, plus our Royals favorites of Dan Quisenberry, Jeff Montgomery, and Joakim Soria, along with the regression in their follow-up seasons (via Fangraphs):

FIP

Season

Reliever

Follow-up Season FIP

Regression & Notes

1.34

1990

Dennis Eckersley

2.84

+1.5

1.36

2013

Greg Holland

???

???

1.65

1999

Billy Wagner

5.99

+4.34; injured 2nd half of season

1.68

2006

Joe Nathan

2.65

+0.97

1.88

1996

Mariano Rivera

2.96

+1.08

2.02

1989

Jeff Montgomery

2.88

+0.86

2.04

1998 & 2002

Trevor Hoffman

2.6, 3.03

+0.56 in ’99; +0.99 & injured in ‘03

2.07

1981

Rollie Fingers

2.54

+0.47

2.23

1990

Lee Smith

2.44

+0.21

2.30

2001

Troy Percival

3.03

+0.73

2.50

2007

Joakim Soria

3.25

+0.75

2.53

1988

Randy Myers

2.72

+0.19

2.69

1989

Dan Quisenberry

5.51

+2.82; 6.2 IP in ’90, his final season

2.73

1991

John Franco

2.97

+0.24

2.90

1982

Jeff Reardon

3.52

+0.62

Of the 10 best all-time relievers, only 5 of them ever had a season with a FIP below 2.0. There are other statistics to show his dominance as well, but you get the point — we just witnessed one of the best seasons by a reliever in baseball history.

The point of this exercise isn’t to say that Greg Holland won’t be good in the future. It’s that there is very little possibility that he will *ever* be this good again. And trading him now, when his salary is extremely low (opening up more potential trade partners) and while he’s coming off what will likely be the best season of his career, makes too much sense to ignore. Especially when there are a number of talented relievers in our bullpen (Hochevar among them) who could step in and replace what Holland will be in 2014 and beyond: an above average to excellent closer.

Will the Royals sell high on Holland, and learn the lesson of missed opportunity taught by Joakim Soria? Dayton Moore may not find a willing trade partner, or a deal that brings enough value in return. But he should be open to and even eager to hear about potential trades. The 2014 roster has too many holes to fill to ignore this prime opportunity for an upgrade.

Tags: Dayton Moore Featured Greg Holland Joakim Soria Kansas City Royals Popular

  • Dirty Harold

    I really hope that the team does not resort to trading Holland. For me, he was the main highlight of this captivating season. I would literally laugh out loud at hitters being baffled by his nasty stuff. I know and realize the value we could get for him, and that hitters may be able to figure him out in the coming years. As a royals lifer it would be nice to see an injection of cash flow from the owners as opposed to seeing another top performer sold and have to watch him succeed elsewhere.

  • Ed Connealy

    Loved watching Holland, loved it. But I’m with you 100%. This team needs bats, and they don’t have any internal candidates available to step up. They do have relief pitchers though. You mention Hoche…..do you think they should pay Hoche his arbitration money and count on him to close? I ask because his arbitration cash seems too high for anything besides a starter or closer. I don’t like the idea of paying him those bucks to be a middle reliever, but am not ok just naming him the closer. The Hoche Sitch is tricky…

  • KCMOWHOA

    Trading Holland is worth discussing if we can find the right return. The real question is will teams be willing to give up a starting infielder or corner outfielder for him? I’d say the answer is probably no. They have access to the same stats we do, and it’s a riskier proposition to trade an established fielder/hitter for a closer.

    Moore has shown an unwillingness to part with whatever he deems the core players on the team, and I’m guessing he’s already attached to Holland. Honestly, I don’t see Moore doing much of anything this off-season besides working on contract extensions and arbitration concerns. It’s possible he picks up another middle-tier starter for the rotation in the Sanchez/Santana mold, but other than that I’m not sure he has many options. I think he was sold on Bonifacio early on and he’ll be our starter at second. Moose isn’t going anywhere, so RF is the only other spot we could see a change at. Maybe they try to sign Beltran or DeJesus if either is willing to return to KC to end their career.

  • jimfetterolf

    All a matter of return on the cheap and very effective Holland. Not sure what his value would be and if traded for n established player with a multi-million dollar contract, that would create a ripple effect on being able to sign Santana, for instance. Working from a small-market mentality, I could see trading him for a nice haul of minor-leaguers, but it would have to be a real nice haul.

  • Drew Milner

    No way, José

  • LastRoyalsFan

    I understand your perspective about maximizing his value, but you can get the same value in other ways. I’d much rather see the team keep Holland at his affordable salary and part ways with Hochevar, who will likely command $6 million plus this year. It would be far better to use that $6 million toward locking up a starter (ie Santana) or an upgrade at RF or 2B than tying it up in the closers role. Addition by subtraction.

  • Cris47

    Comment #1 – Upgrade the shortstop? Where on earth are you going to get someone with Eskie’s defensive creds who can hit .300 without giving up the farm? Come on. Get real. He’s shown he can hit .290+ for a season. We just need good coaching that can bring that out again.

    Comment #2 – “Holland is unlikely to repeat his dominant 2013 performance.” What gives you the right to say that? Have you joined the elite company of the baseball gods to know that? Sure he’s almost 28, but Mo went until he was ancient, in baseball terms, and looked pretty good until his last year when he just looked “good.”

    Comment #3 – “this year will almost definitely be Greg Holland’s peak season.” Another dumb statement. How he ended this season should be somewhere around where he begins the next season, once he (and everyone else) warms up. Sure, you qualify that statement with, “He may even be excellent.” How condescending of you, Mr. Baseball God.

    Comment #4 – “Holland was far and away the best reliever in baseball this year.” Well, duh. And you want to trade him away? That would be like the Yankees trading away Babe Ruth after the 1920 when after he hit 54 HRs. Well, he reached his peak, we should get rid of him now. After all, he’ll only be excellent from here on out. The next year he hit 59. 1923 began a run of eight of nine years where he hit 41 or more home runs, including 60 in 1927 and 54 the next year—only excellent, I might add. In the one year of that run he didn’t hit 41 or more HRs, he “only” hit 25 – a mere “good” but five better, I believe, than any Royal did this year.

    Comment #5 – You throw around FIPs, like it’s supposed to mean something. There are so many stat acronyms these days, that four times out of five I have no idea what you’re talking about. Statistics don’t win games; pitching and bats do.

    Comment #6 – “we just witnessed one of the best seasons by a reliever in baseball history.” So, naturally, let’s get rid of him. That makes perfect sense. Goodbye, Babe Ruth. Good luck in New York.

    Comment #7 – “there is very little possibility that he will *ever* be this good again.” Where do you get your odds? From a Cracker Jack box?

    Comment # 8 – “he’s coming off what will likely be the best season of his career.” How arrogant! I know, I’m coming off sounding arrogant myself, but I’m tired of hearing sideline prognosticators wheel and deal people’s careers around like they know what they are talking about, throwing around hundreds of stats/acronyms to supposedly support their ideas.

    I don’t usually sound off this way but I read so much stuff like this, it just gets under the skin after awhile, like, over an entire season. It’s nothing personal against the author, believe it or not, it’s just a slam against inanity. I know, some may think I’m being inane, but that’s all right. I probably am.

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