The Kansas City Royals non-tendered closer Greg Holland following the World Series due to discovering his torn ulnar collateral ligament (elbow) in September. While the team has expressed interest in bringing him back on a two-year deal, such an agreement is unlikely to materialize given his uncertain future.
The biggest problem with the KC Royals bringing back Greg Holland is that the late discovery of his injury means he could miss the entire 2016 season. At best, Holland might contribute during the post-season.
That’s why any Greg Holland contract with Kansas City Royals will be for two years: any 2016 payment might end up being nothing more than support for his rehab process. Thus, teams will want a second year to ensure they’re getting some production for their money.
The question is, what can Holland possibly contribute over the next two seasons?
Greg Holland is certainly more valuable to teams with playoff expectations. When healthy, Holland is one of the most dominant closers in baseball. Heck, he was still effective while pitching most of 2015 with an injury. His 3.83 ERA and 9.9 K/9 were below par for Holland’s career standards, but were still good enough to notch 32 saves with a 109 ERA+ (9% better than a league average ERA). Fielding Independent Pitching stats (FIP) suggest Holland got a bit unlucky last season as well, coming in at 3.27 as compared to his 3.83 ERA.
Pretty much every team in baseball, including the Kansas City Royals, would like to add a healthy Greg Holland to their playoff roster.
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What they’d be getting, however, is the question. Recent studies suggest a return rate of around 80% after Tommy John surgery according to the Hardball Times. Most take at least a year time before they can appear in the major leagues, but full recovery often takes another six months to a year before reaching their full post-surgery ability.
In short, the dominant Greg Holland is not what you expect to be getting for the playoffs next season. And there’s a 20% chance that Holland never returns at all.
That’s why I doubt that the Kansas City Royals re-sign Greg Holland. Dayton Moore already has a strong trio at the back end of the KC pen with Wade Davis, Kelvin Herrera and Joakim Soria (who returned on a three-year, $25 million free-agent deal this winter).The KC Royals also have Luke Hochevar under contract for one more season, and he figures to be closer to his 2013 self than his 3.78 ERA in 2015. Hochevar pitched 10.2 innings in the post-season without surrendering a run.
Earlier this winter I wrote that Greg Holland wasn’t necessarily gone. But, since then, the set-up man market has zoomed. Given the large contracts teams have been throwing at back-end relievers, I suspect the Kansas City Royals will get out-bid for Holland’s services.
Given the strength of the Kansas City Royals pen, I would much rather spend money on someone like Cliff Lee or Tim Lincecum in hopes of adding an ace to the rotation at a bargain rate over gambling on Greg Holland. In the end, I think a bigger market contender with a bullpen need, like the Diamondbacks or Dodgers, will be more willing to take that risk.