KC Royals fans have heard over and over that the Royals should trade closer Greg Holland. In 2012, the reasoning was that closers don’t really help the Kansas City Royals because they’re not ready to compete. In 2013, analysts cited the short shelf life typical for closers not named Mariano Rivera.
In 2014, many pundits believed that the KC Royals should accept that they would not make the playoffs due to their 47-50 record at the deadline, and instead become sellers. Holland, of course, would be a hot trade commodity along with James Shields.
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Now we’re in 2015, and 29-year-old Greg Holland is still putting up dominant numbers as the Kansas City Royals closer. And, I’m saying that the KC Royals should trade him.
I’d like to think that my reasoning is both 1) different, and 2) more sound than the above advice, which looks bad in retrospect after Holland played a key role in Kansas City’s 2014 run to the World Series.
This time, I don’t think that the KC Royals have problems competing (they have the best record in the American League at 41-28), or are doomed to miss the playoffs. Nor do I think Greg Holland is ready to implode (despite concerns about his fastball velocity which I discussed yesterday).
Instead, I think general manager Dayton Moore needs to deal Holland because the Kansas City Royals still have a dominant bullpen without him.
If the KC Royals deal Greg Holland, the team still has former Phillies closer Ryan Madson (1.82 ERA, 8.8 K/9). Wade Davis has proven he can handle the closer role during Holland’s stint on the disabled list this season. Herrera can take over the 8th inning role, while Madson can pitch the 7th.
Even without Greg Holland, the Kansas City Royals would have a three-headed monster to finish games.
Behind Davis, Herrera, and Madson, the bullpen still has Brandon Finnegan (1.88 ERA, 7.5 K/9), Jason Frasor (1.69 ERA, 6.3 K/9), and Franklin Morales (2.79 ERA, 5.3 K/9). While Luke Hochevar hasn’t had good results (6.00 ERA), he is missing bats (9.8 K/9).
Meanwhile, Holland has lost some zip on his fastball. His average velocity is down to 93.3 mph according to Fangraphs.com. In 2014, Greg Holland’s fastball averaged 95.7 mph. While he’s still effective (2.95 ERA, 14 saves in 15 chances), he might be beginning to decline.
Trading Greg Holland now would be cashing him in while he’s still close to his peak. Further, it would be a way for general manager Dayton Moore to shore up his weaknesses in his rotation, at second base, or right field without compromising his prospect pipeline.
My ideal Holland trade would be to flip him to the prospect-rich Cubs, who are in need of a proven closer. If we look at the Craig Kimbrel trade as a model, Kimbrel brought back a top 70 overall prospect, plus a C-level prospect, as well as a useful outfielder in Cameron Maybin. Carlos Quentin also went to Atlanta, but he was a bad contract used to balance the Padres taking on the toxic deal of Melvin Upton.
Dayton Moore could even consider pairing Holland with Omar Infante, in order to unload the $18 million remaining on the final two years of Infante’s contract.
One reality that KC Royals fans need to face is that for Dayton Moore to keep the franchise on top, he will have to flip players on the verge of getting expensive for prospects as favorable opportunities arise. Holland is in the perfect place for such a deal.
As counter-intuitive as it might seem, trading Greg Holland might be the best move the Kansas City Royals can make to position the team for another World Series run—while still preserving their future.