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):
Follow-up Season FIP
Regression & Notes
|Dennis Eckersley|| |
|Greg Holland|| |
|Billy Wagner|| |
|+4.34; injured 2nd half of season|
|Joe Nathan|| |
|Mariano Rivera|| |
|Jeff Montgomery|| |
1998 & 2002
|Trevor Hoffman|| |
|+0.56 in ’99; +0.99 & injured in ‘03|
|Rollie Fingers|| |
|Lee Smith|| |
|Troy Percival|| |
|Joakim Soria|| |
|Randy Myers|| |
|Dan Quisenberry|| |
|+2.82; 6.2 IP in ’90, his final season|
|John Franco|| |
|Jeff Reardon|| |
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.