The KC Royals recent problem holding leads has shown that they need to sign former closer Greg Holland as soon as possible. Holland’s successful return from Tommy John surgery could bring back their three-headed bullpen monster.
Though the Kansas City Royals bullpen fashioned a franchise-record 41.2 inning scoreless streak in August, they still missed former closer Greg Holland. General manager Dayton Moore attempted to replace him by signing Joakim Soria to a three-year, $25 million deal, only to watch Soria blow twelve late-inning leads in 64 games. Though Soria’s 4.19 ERA isn’t exactly awful, his nightmarish 10.42 ERA in high leverage situations has been a disaster.
Since August 31 alone, Soria has blown five straight late-inning leads.
The most obvious solution is to bring back 30-year-old Greg Holland on a one-year deal. Holland is likely to accept such a contract to rebuild his value. He won’t get the kind of long-term deal that his talent deserves until he establishes both his health and dominance. Multiple reports indicate that Holland still remains interested in a return to Kansas City.
Fixing his depleted bullpen has to be at the top of Moore’s “to do” list this off-season. His team just doesn’t score enough runs to tolerate inconsistent bullpen performance. The Kansas City Royals championship model has been built around 1) contact hitting, 2) defense, and 3) bullpen dominance. In many ways, their mediocre 2016 season occurred because only their defense has remained strong.
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Despite their near .500 record at 74-71, the KC Royals looked like a championship club in August when their bullpen racked up their long scoreless streak. To me that performance shows that rebuilding Kansas City’s killer bullpen has to be Moore’s top priority this winter.
Greg Holland will turn 31 in November, and will be 19 months removed from Tommy John surgery next April. Typically, Tommy John survivors require 12 months of rehab before they can return to the mound. They usually don’t make a full recovery until 18 to 24 months after surgery. Holland should be ready to hit the ground running next spring.
Certainly, signing Holland would be a gamble for the Kansas City Royals. But, the recovery rates for Tommy John surgery hover around 75-80% these days. Even a slightly-less effective Holland is likely to be dominant. He still put up a 3.83 ERA with 32 saves in 2015 when he was pitching with an injured elbow. His five blown saves in 48 games is one heck of a lot better than Joakim Soria in 2016.
Of course, what the KC Royals really want from a Greg Holland signing is the guy that racked up 93 saves with a 1.32 ERA in 2013-2014. Holland made two straight all-star appearances in those two seasons in which he was one of the most dominant closers in baseball. The Kansas City Royals need that kind of reliability from their pen to contend in 2017.