Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reported on Thursday afternoon that Colorado Rockies All-Star closer Greg Holland will opt out of his contract and become a free agent this offseason. Following Heyman’s report, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale tweeted about a growing connection between the Cardinals and the soon-available closer:
It’s no secret that St. Louis could use some relief in the relief department. From a key set-up man’s early-season struggles, the swapping of the closer’s role, significant overuse in some areas, and not enough use in others, the Cardinals’ bullpen twisted through a wicked roller coaster of dependability and effectiveness all season long.
With Trevor Rosenthal having Tommy John surgery in August and Seung Hwan Oh dealing with a hamstring issue for over a week in September, St. Louis’s plans in late-inning situations were in a flux throughout the final stretch of the season. As the club labored to record the final three outs of ballgames, Matt Bowman, John Brebbia, Tyler Lyons, and waiver-addition Juan Nicasio all found themselves in save opportunities on at least one occasion.
Rosenthal will likely miss the entire 2018 season while recovering from the elbow procedure, and fellow relievers Oh, Nicasio, and Zach Duke are set to reach the market this winter. All in consideration, it’s sensible that the Cardinals would desire a dependable and effective arm to help establish a rhythm in a bullpen that has become very out of tune.
They might get just what they desire in Holland.
In his age-31 season, Holland was named an All-Star for the third time in his career. With 41 saves in 45 chances, Holland logged 57 1⁄3 innings - his most since he recorded 67 frames in 2012 and 2013 as a member of the Royals. Holland had Tommy John surgery and missed all of the 2016 season, but the right-hander rebounded to maintain a 70:26 strikeout-to-walk ratio with an opponent’s batting average of .192 in 2017.
Holland worked to a 3.72 FIP in 61 games with a 1.1 WAR - the seventh best among relievers in the National League West. In the second half of the season, Holland’s strikeout rate plummeted and his home run shot up. With such an occurrence partly aided by pitching Colorado, Holland nevertheless declined his $15 million option for the 2018 season.
The addition of Holland would let the Cardinals begin the 2018 campaign with an established big-league closer in place. From there, it would allow the rest of the bullpen arms to fall in their more natural roles - and no one should be asked to perform in roles without working up to them.
As far as the contract side goes, Heyman (in the above-linked story) mentioned that Holland might garner a deal similar to the one Mark Melancon received from the Giants: a four-year, $64 million agreement; an average of $16 million per season. Keep in mind the Rockies may still extend Holland a one-year qualifying offer.
If the Cardinals did sign Holland for a similar deal as Melancon’s, it would be the club’s first deep dive in the expensive relief pitching market that has highlighted previous offseasons. Cecil’s contract was worth $30.5 million over four years, St. Louis’ highest contract for a reliever.
Premier closers Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen signed for figures over $80 million last offseason.
This winter’s market will be open by the first Monday in November, a little over three weeks out. The rumor mill is already churning.