Colorado Rockies’ closer Greg Holland has opted out of his $15 million player option and will instead become a free agent, according to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports. With this decision, he became one of the most attractive closing options available during this offseason due to his performance in 2017. Entering free agency also gives Holland a chance to receive Mark Melancon-type money for his closing role, with an opportunity to lock into a long-term contract with a playoff ready team.
His performance speaks for itself
In 2017, Holland saved 41 games. That tied for most in the National League with Los Angeles Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen. He also recorded a 3.61 ERA, 3.72 FIP, 4.05 xFIP and 3.53 SIERA. Holland also has plenty of experience pitching in the postseason as he was the closer during the Kansas City Royals’ playoff run in 2014. His performance and experience by themselves make him a valuable free agent.
Teams could, however, have a few concerns about the Rockies closer. Holland had a terrific first half of the season, but he was immensely less effective during the second half of the season.
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What is particularly concerning is that his strikeout percentage went down about eight percent while his home runs-per-fly balls percentage increased by ten percent. He had a particularly egregious August when he recorded a 13.50 ERA, 9.26 FIP, 6.93 xFIP and 5.45 SIERA while blowing three saves. This second half decline could have been caused by his lack of stamina after missing the entire 2016 season due to Tommy John surgery.
Despite the concerns, Holland 's overall performance should attract a large offer from a team looking for bullpen help.
The market favors him
For teams seeking bullpen help, especially a closer, Holland is one of the best available. Apart from Holland, only Wade Davis, Fernando Rodney, and Brandon Kintzler have significant, recent, and successful closer experience. Other available relievers that could step in as closers include Addison Reed, Pat Neshek, Luke Gregerson, Tyler Clippard, Jake McGee, Tony Watson, Steve Cishek, and Bryan Shaw, but all of them either lack significant experience in the ninth inning.
Some playoff caliber teams could also use help in the bullpen, which could drive up his price even further.
The St. Louis Cardinals, who have already expressed interest in Holland, desperately need a closer since Trevor Rosenthal (3.40 ERA, 2.17 FIP, 2.55 xFIP, 2.60 SIERA) and his 121 career saves will most likely miss the entire 2018 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in late August. Seung Hwan Oh (4.10 ERA, 4.44 FIP, 5.04 xFIP, 4.18 SIERA), who also closed for the Cardinals earlier this year, struggled in the closer’s role. While he saved 20 games, he blew four save opportunities. Juan Nicasio (2.61 ERA, 2.98 FIP, 3.63 xFIP, 3.47 SIERA with three teams), who stepped in as closer after Rosenthal got hurt in late August, recorded six saves but is also a free agent.
The Rockies could also try to sign him back as they do not have an obvious replacement for him. Holland brought much stability to the Rockies bullpen and gave them a trustworthy ninth-inning presence they did not have during the last five seasons. Adam Ottavino (4.35 ERA, 5.16 FIP, 5.08 xFIP, 4.67 SIERA) and Carlos Estevez (5.57 ERA, 3.84 FIP, 4.12 xFIP, 4.14 SIERA) have a small amount of ninth-inning experience, but both of them would have to improve substantially to fill the void left behind by Holland's potential departure. For the Rockies, signing Greg Holland might be the best move, but he could be too expensive.
Other teams such as the Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston Red Sox, and Houston Astros will most likely lose vital bullpen figures. Holland might have to take a set-up role with these teams but if any of those teams will shell out some extra cash, he could end up signing for them.
Greg Holland is one of the best relievers on the market. For him, declining his $15 million player option with the Rockies gives him an opportunity to sign a long-term contract. The contract will probably give him more money each year, and he could sign with a team that is better than the Rockies. For him, his decision to decline was the right one.