KC Royals: Why Didn’t Kansas City Sign Greg Holland?

The KC Royals didn’t sign former closer Greg Holland despite Colorado landing him for a one-year, $7 million deal with vesting options in 2018 and 2019. After Holland signed with the Rockies, KC spent $16 million on Jason Hammel and $12 million on Travis Wood

For most of the winter, Kansas City Royals general manager Dayton Moore indicated he wanted to cut payroll. He insisted that KC wasn’t in the running for major free-agents. Then Yordano Ventura died in the Dominican Republic on January 22. Apparently, the loss of Ventura forced a change in strategy from the KC Royals front office. Believing he had a team that could compete, owner David Glass couldn’t sit by and allow Ventura’s car accident to destroy his investment in the 2017 season.

The funny thing is that Moore decided to sign two other pitchers and let Holland sign with Colorado.

Remember, Greg Holland was still unsigned on the day of Yordano Ventura’s funeral. I thought the Royals might make one last ditch appeal to him after he spent all day with his former teammates in the Dominican Republic to pay their final respects to Ventura. Instead, Holland returned to the United States and signed with the Rockies the next day.

Yet, the $28 million Kansas City committed to Jason Hammel and Travis Wood shows that Holland wasn’t financially out of reach. Instead, it seems that Dayton Moore preferred Hammel and Wood over Holland. I can’t image that Holland would have turned down a deal from KC comparable to the one he took from Colorado. Pitching half his games in the launching pad that is Coors Field doesn’t seem to be an ideal result—not when Holland is trying to hit numbers that will trigger his vesting options.

Had Ventura not passed away, signing Holland might have made sense. He would have been an upside play for a strong bullpen. However, losing Ventura left a gaping hole in the rotation. The Royals could only rely on Danny Duffy and Ian Kennedy to eat innings. Jason Vargas is coming back from Tommy John surgery. Chris Young posted a 6.19 ERA last season. Finally, trade acquisition Nate Karns hasn’t pitched more than 147.0 innings in a season.

Behind those five, KC had a whole bunch of questionable prospects and veteran reclamation projects as rotation depth. Teams usually want to have eight or nine starting pitching options before the season starts. After Mike Minor suffered two setbacks in his recovery from shoulder surgery that prevented him from pitching in 2016, and Kyle Zimmer’s thoracic outlet surgery last winter, there was just too much uncertainty with the rotation.

Jason Hammel pretty much was the best available hurler on the market after Ventura’s death. But, logic suggests Moore preferred Wood to Holland due to Wood’s past history as a starter. Heck, Wood earned an All-Star bid as a starter for the Cubs in 2013. Sign, for instance, Hammel and Holland instead, and Moore would be left with a precarious rotation.

On the other hand, Wood can help the KC Royals as either a starter or a reliever. In the end, I believe Wood’s versatility was simply more attractive than the chance that Holland could recapture the form that allowed him to dominate the American League from 2012-15.

I guess that reason makes sense. But, I must confess, it will be painful if the KC Royals blow a lot of late leads in 2017 and Greg Holland dominates in Colorado.