It took until the end of January for reliever Greg Holland to find a home this offseason, but the 31-year-old closer is proving to be quite the get for the Colorado Rockies, who didn’t seem like a perfect fit at the time.
It’s not hard to think Holland would’ve preferred a softer landing spot than Coors Field coming off Tommy John surgery, but the Rockies paid up and they’re reaping the benefits. Holland has 17 saves in 17 chances with a 1.04 ERA in 17.1 innings.
If it sounds like your favorite team missed out on signing Holland, you’re probably right. He’s guaranteed $7 million this season, but he can earn up to $14 million in incentives. It’s easy to say now, but there surely are some teams looking back with regret in not making more of a serious effort to bring him in.
Here’s a look at the teams that should’ve signed Holland, knowing what we know now.
Start in the National League West, where the Arizona Diamondbacks have a bullpen that’s performing but lacks depth in the organization. Adding Holland would’ve allowed the team to either keep its bullpen fresh and win games or become a valuable piece at the trade deadline. After all, we’ve seen what really good relievers have cost teams lately. It’s a lot. The D-backs need a lot of help in the system. The Los Angeles Dodgers don’t have a bullpen problem right now, but they have a Sergio Romo problem. Imagine going with Clayton Kershaw for seven innings, Holland for the eighth and Kenley Jansen for the ninth. Kershaw for nine works, too. The San Francisco Giants could’ve signed Holland and spent their Mark Melancon money elsewhere, perhaps on an outfielder? The San Diego Padres? Well, maybe it’d be a sign of good faith to spend money at the major league level before sending Holland and Brad Hand off for more 19-year-old studs.
There are other NL teams that missed out on him, including the Chicago Cubs. Sure, the Cubs traded for Wade Davis, who has been great, but maybe they could’ve signed Holland instead and included Jorge Soler in a different trade package for a starting pitcher. The Pittsburgh Pirates are paying Daniel Hudson $5.5 million this year for a 7.31 ERA. Holland doesn’t sound all that bad in that case. The same goes for the Milwaukee Brewers, who are paying Neftali Feliz $5.35 million. The St. Louis Cardinals are paying Brett Cecil $7.75 million this year to be a lefty specialist. Lefties are hitting .138 against Holland. They’re hitting .464 off Cecil. The Cincinnati Reds really could use him as part of their attempt at a super pen that’s making up for a poor starting rotation.
We know the New York Mets could use him, especially with the loss of Jeurys Familia. Money should’ve been no excuse for the Mets. While piling up veteran arms that could help in the short term and potentially be flipped, the Atlanta Braves missed by not taking a closer look at Holland. The back of the bullpen wouldn’t look too bad with Holland, Arodys Vizcaino and Jim Johnson. The Philadelphia Phillies added salary in their bullpen with Joaquin Benoit and Pat Neshek. Neshek’s been good, Benoit hasn’t, but the $14 million they’re making combined would look better if it was spent on Holland. The Miami Marlins did the same with Brad Ziegler and Junichi Tazawa, who are making $11.35 million this season. Then there’s the Washington Nationals, who have five closers so far this season but none of them are Holland, which is a problem everyone knew the team had in November.
Take a look at the American League, where maybe the Kansas City Royals wish they had Holland back to serve as good memories of the past before they blow things up for their future. The Chicago White Sox don’t need a closer — they’ve had six save opportunities this year — but the Nationals do, so maybe general manager Rick Hahn could’ve signed Holland to trade him to Washington since David Robertson hasn’t been moved yet. The Detroit Tigers removed Francisco Rodriguez from their closer role, so they clearly need one as good as Justin Wilson is. The Minnesota Twins have four pitchers with over a 6.00 ERA in at least 10 innings of relief, and since they’re playing well, they might regret overlooking their bullpen this offseason. If the Cleveland Indians would’ve signed Holland, they might not need to use any starters in relief.
With all the setup men Dave Dombrowski has tried to acquire, Holland would’ve only cost the Boston Red Sox money and is actually pitching, something Carson Smith and Tyler Thornburg aren’t doing. The New York Yankees found success with a three-headed bullpen in the past, and Tyler Clippard has fit that role well, but Aroldis Chapman’s injury shows maybe you can’t be too sure. The Baltimore Orioles are without Zach Britton now, but improving the pen with someone like Holland would’ve helped hide some warts in the starting rotation. If there’s ever been a team to essentially sign-and-trade players, it’s the Tampa Bay Rays. OK, throw the Oakland Athletics in there, too. Holland would’ve served as insurance for the Toronto Blue Jays with Roberto Osuna coming off the World Baseball Classic and Jason Grilli coming off old age.
The talk of the Houston Astros this offseason was starting pitching, but Holland would’ve helped boost an inconsistent bullpen that features Ken Giles and Luke Gregerson at the end. The Seattle Mariners thought they had a dynamite closer in Edwin Diaz, but he blew up in a bad way. Holland could’ve given Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto a day or two off the waiver wire. The Texas Rangers mostly stayed pat, but if the team didn’t want to seriously address issues in the starting rotation, it could’ve strengthened a relatively unproven bullpen with Holland. The Los Angeles Angels should’ve signed him because right now Bud Norris is their closer.
Of course, Holland had a choice in where he wanted to go as well, and many of these wouldn’t have been closing situations. Nevertheless, teams had plenty of chances to get him. The Rockies sure are glad they did.