The Kansas City Royals will not tender closing pitcher Greg Holland a contract after this season as the two-time All-Star recovers from Tommy John surgery, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.
Holland, 29, went under the knife in late-September after suffering a “significant tear” of the ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow. His elbow problems were apparent throughout the 2015 campaign, as Holland’s usually blazing velocity saw a significant decrease. Royals manager Ned Yost told Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star that he believes Holland suffered the tear last August.
Yost thinks Holland likely tore ligament last August. So Holland pitched all October & saved 32 games in ’14 w/ a damaged arm. Impressive.
— Andy McCullough (@McCulloughStar) September 24, 2015
Due to the surgery, Holland is expected to be sidelined for most, if not all of 2016. Partnered with the raise he would receive from arbitration — which MLB Trade Rumors estimated to be $11.3 million, up significantly from his $8.25 million salary in 2015 — the decision to non-tender Holland became an easy one.
As McCullough mentioned, Holland notched 32 saves in 2015, but his other statistics on the year were hampered by the injury. For starters, Holland’s ERA was 3.83 — the highest ERA he’s posted over the course of a full season in his career. He also allowed more hits (39) and walks (26) compared to his 2014 season.
From 2013-14, Holland made two All-Star teams, pitched to a cumulative 1.32 ERA, and saved 93 games for the Royals. Alongside right-handed flamethrower’s Kelvin Herrera and Wade Davis, the Royals three-headed monster out of the bullpen played a huge role in the team’s AL Pennant and World Series appearance in 2014.
— MLB (@MLB) February 19, 2015
But as previously mentioned, Holland’s elbow issues were clear throughout the season.
Per FanGraphs, Holland’s average fastball velocity in 2015 was pegged at 93.6 mph. While that number is good, it’s also alarming since his fastball velocity was sitting at 95.7 mph just one year ago. Holland refused to go see a doctor despite his slipping performance, choosing to pitch through the discomfort instead. However, when his trademark velocity became an issue, Holland was sent to go see a doctor, at which point, Tommy John surgery was recommended.
Luckily for the Royals, they were able to overcome the loss of Holland thanks to their deep bullpen. Wade Davis stepped into the closer’s role in Holland’s absence, performing at his usually brilliant level in making the switch from setup man. Thus far in the 2015 postseason, Holland’s presence has not been missed with Davis continuing his stellar postseason resume.
— MLB Stat of the Day (@MLBStatoftheDay) November 1, 2015
Just because the Royals intend of non-tendering Holland, does not mean the longtime Royal, who the team drafted in 2007, is done as a member of the organization. As Heyman mentioned in his report, the Royals still “love” Holland and would like to retain him. The Royals are open to doing a two-year deal with Holland, much like they did with pitcher Kris Medlen.
The Royals signed the former Braves standout to a two-year deal, worth a low salary of $8.5 million, via Kansas City Star. The 29-year-old was recovering from his second Tommy John surgery at the time of the signing, and began 2015 on the 60-day disabled list.
By signing Holland to a two-year deal, they can have him under contract for 2016, as he rehabs from injury, preventing another team from taking a flier on him. Then, in 2017, when Holland should be healthy, they could potentially have the Holland of old back on a relatively cheap contract.
In addition to the Medlen contract, the New York Yankees tried something similar when they inked right-hander David Aardsma to a one-year deal with an option prior to the 2012 season, per MLB.com. Yankees’ GM Brian Cashman spoke on signing by saying, “the move could help us in 2012, but has a lot more eyes toward 2013.”
Therefore, the potential 2015 World Series champion Royals could lose Holland to another team, but could re-sign him as they look toward 2017.
[Image by Rick Yeatts / Getty Images]