On Saturday, Derek Holland’s agent (Michael Martini) stated that the Pirates were on Holland’s short list of preferred destinations. Of course, Holland stated he would prefer to stay in Texas where he has spent his whole career, but after having his $11M club option declined in favor of a $1.5M buyout, it seems as if the Rangers are moving on. Or at least seeing what the market bears for him. Essentially, the Rangers are saying that Holland is not worth $9.5M to them, the difference from his salary to his buyout.
It’s easy to see why Holland’s agent has specifically name-checked the Pirates. If you’re a pitcher in need of a rebound, the Pirates are baseball’s equivalent to Tinder. If Ray Searage can do his thing, Holland could come here on a pillow contract and strike riches next year in free agency. Add in the facts that the Pirates don’t have a viable lefty for the rotation (sorry, Steven Brault and Jeff Locke, if you’re reading this) and that Derek Holland throws spheroids with his left hand and you have a connection in the making.
If the Pirates were assured of getting at least a reasonable facsimile of 2013 Derek Holland, I would be ecstatic. That year, “Dutch” pitched 213 innings of 3.42 ERA/3.44 FIP ball for 4.3 WAR, all while calling the hitter-friendly Texas yard his home park. But time has not been kind to Holland since that 2013 season. In 2014, knee surgery kept him out most of the year, while 2015 was robbed by an injury to his shoulder muscles. Holland also spent a considerable amount of time on the DL this year with shoulder inflammation, resulting in less than ideal results and only 107 innings pitched. Most concerning to me is that Holland has lost two mph off his fastball since 2013, including 1.2 mph from 2015 to 2016 alone, down to 91.7 mph.
Also to note is that Holland is not a groundball pitcher. It was stated early in the offseason by Clint Hurdle that the Pirates wanted to get back to inducing groundballs as a staff-wide philosophy. Holland’s career 42.3% and 2016 rate of 38.3% don’t seem to fit that mold. I’ve recently lobbied for another rebound candidate in the form of Alex Cobb from the Tampa Bay Rays, he of the 56.3% career groundball rate. Holland would just cost money, while Cobb would cost player assets in a trade.
I suppose you could insert the meme of “why not both?” here. If the Pirates were to somehow manage to get both Holland and Cobb, that would be a viable rotation on paper of Cole-Taillon-Cobb-Holland-Kuhl, but there’s a huge amount of volatility in there. Cole had a sub-par year and is coming off an injury-riddled campaign himself. Taillon and Kuhl will just be entering their first full years in the Majors.
It wouldn’t even feel as strong as the 2016 rotation, because at least this spring you had Cole coming off a dominant 2015 and Francisco Liriano slated as a strong #2. Yes, the 3-4-5 was vastly inferior in Niese-Locke-Nicasio, but the injury histories and youth of Cobb-Holland-Kuhl may counter balance that.
What would Holland be looking for in terms of a contract? Having a generous $1.5M buyout banked certainly helps. I would be OK with a 1 yr/$6M deal with a club option for 2017, perhaps something in the neighborhood of $10M and a $500K buyout.
As long as a potential Holland move is buttressed by a move for a pitcher with a little more stability or upside, I would be fine with that as the upgrades to the pitching staff for 2017. It’s all about adjusting expectations when you’re a Pirate fan. But I’ll keep tilting at windmills for my true target, Jose Quintana.