The Cubs don’t figure to be doling out boatloads of cash to top-end closers like Aroldis Chapman or Kenley Jansen, both of whom are set to command the largest contracts ever for relief pitchers. Even Mark Melancon, easily the senior member of the elite trio of closers, could be too rich for the Cubs’ blood. But with an appetite for success and a scrapper’s nose for value pickups, former Royal Greg Holland could make a lot of sense.
After missing all of 2016 following Tommy John Surgery, Holland only topped out at 91 mph during a recent showcase workout in Phoenix. That’s not the kind of elite velocity you’d like to see from a back-end bullpen guy, particularly one who had worked in the mid-to-upper 90’s, but the hope is that he rounds into form as the season progresses. We’ve seen the Cubs take fliers on comeback projects before, most recently with former stud closer Joe Nathan, who was actually coming off of his second TJS. Since Holland is almost exactly 11 years younger than Nathan, neither age nor injury history should be much of an issue here.
What is an issue, however, is the demand for a reliever of Holland’s caliber and the potential for a bidding war in what is otherwise a pretty weak pitching market. It’s reported that roughly 60 scouts from 18 teams attended his workout, with many others showing interest. Among those clubs reportedly kicking the tires are the Red Sox, Giants, Rangers, Yankees, and Nationals. There were obviously others, namely the Cubs, but those five organizations are not shy about spending money. And given that Holland is represented by Scott Boras, you can pretty much throw out the idea of shopping in the discount bargain-bin. Boras is said to be seeking a two-year deal with incentives and MLB Trade Rumors has speculated that the righty could get somewhere in the neighborhood of $18 million.
That’s a pretty hefty price tag for a guy who still hasn’t regained his velocity (it had actually be tailing for a couple years and dropped off significantly in 2015) and who hasn’t pitched in live game action in over a full season. Of course, I guess it’s still better than the Scott Baker deal. I’ll echo my popular refrain when it comes to possible moves, which is that I have implicit trust in the Cubs front office to make the best decision for the team. That said, I don’t see them investing a lot of money in Greg Holland, who is in sort of a no-man’s land when it comes to their offseason strategy.
While the cost is going to be significantly less and would be spread over a shorter period than with the other big-name relievers on the market, we’re not exactly talking about a cheap project that you can easily walk away from should it not work out. This isn’t Clayton Richard or Rafael Soriano or [insert random relief pitcher here]. Then again, Holland could provide a late-season boost similar to what the Cubs got from Chapman this season. He might also serve as an insurance policy for either Hector Rondon or Carl Edwards Jr should the Cubs choose to use either to close in 2017.
I know many of you are still holding out hope for Kenley Jansen and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t right there with you. But there’s no way the Cubs make a move like that and also pursue Holland, thereby committing somewhere in the neighborhood of $25-27 million per season to two relievers. Or else they do and I’m an idiot. Actually, those two things are mutually exclusive.
If forced to wager a guess, I’d say the Cubs continue to sniff around on Holland but that the price to land him ends up being more than they’re comfortable spending. Unless…nah, Boras wouldn’t give in to a client’s desire to take less money to play for a World Series champion with a hella good shot to repeat. Would he?