Dayton Moore is not typically involved in big trades around the trade deadline. This has frustrated fans in the final days of July, but has ultimately helped the team.
Last year, the two notable trades Moore made before the deadline netted the Royals a solid backup catcher (that we never used) in Erik Kratz and the final piece of an elite bullpen in Jason Frasor. After the deadline, he scored Josh Willingham from the Twins, who also played a key role in the Royals' magical run.
With the Royals still sitting in first place, it's reasonable to assume Moore will have a similar type of trade deadline this year. That means you shouldn't expect a Johnny Cueto or Cole Hamels in your stockings come August 1, but it's likely that Moore trades for a Chris Young-type who experiences inexplicable success with the Royals despite underwhelming expectations.
But if Moore were to make a big trade this year, I know who I'd want as the centerpiece of the deal. It's not Cueto, Hamels or another starter. It's not a star second baseman either.
It's Greg Holland.
Okay, you probably read the headline, so that's not that surprising of a reveal. The idea of trading one of your best players in the thick of a playoff race seems counter-intuitive, but the more I think about it, the more I like the idea.
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Why make this move?
The difference between a bullpen with Holland and a bullpen without one is a lot smaller than the difference between a rotation with top starter and a rotation without one, or a lineup with a second baseman and a lineup without one (#VoteOmar).
The potential loss is minimal compared to the potential gain.
Think of it this way. Let's say you're head of the marketing department for a business. The business has done extremely well in traditional forms of advertising, such as print or television. Let's say the hypothetical department has ten people who are very strong with those traditional forms of advertising.
What the metaphorical business doesn't do well is social media. They've only got one or two people in that area, they don't really understand how Twitter works, and they don't even have an Instagram account.
It would make a lot of sense for the business to hire a social media expert, even if it means they have to let one of their traditional advertisers go. The business would still have a very strong presence in print or broadcast form, but it would gain so much more through the new social media channels.
Similarly, it would make a lot of sense for the Royals to go after some top starters, even if it means they have to let one of their strong relievers go. They'd still have a strong bullpen, but the rotation would see marked improvement.
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What we'd be giving up
Oh, you wanted more information? Fine then.
Financially, we'd be giving up some of an $8.25M contract this year, and whatever arbitration decides he's worth next year. Between the two years, that could be a savings of nearly $15M at a pivotal point in this team's future. That money could help sign Alex Gordon this offseason, or it could help secure one of the other franchise cornerstones long-term.
Dayton Moore made quite a few trades in June and July last year, but I didn't mention most of them above because nearly all of them were for cash. As a small-market team, it's no surprise the Royals need cash. This is one way to save a little bit more.
But enough about the money. Let's look at the stats of the player we're giving up.
Here are four members of the Royals' bullpen and their 2015 stats. Can you guess who is whom?
Side note: I was going to also include Jason Frasor on this table, but other than an out-of-place 0.49 ERA, his statistics are horrendous, including a 1.69 WHIP and a SIERA of 5.21. Watch out for Frasor as the season progresses.
If you don't think those stats from Holland are encouraging, well, you'll be less encouraged by what's coming up next.
|2014 Greg Holland
|2015 Greg Holland
There's a lot of stuff going on in that table.
➢ Holland is limiting opponents to a .102 batting average, which looks great until you see the .114 BABIP. Expect a lot of regression in that stat.
➢ Players are swinging less at pitches outside of the zone, and when they do swing, they're making more contact.
➢ Holland's slider has been much easier to hit this year, probably because it's staying in the zone half the time.
➢ Holland's fastball velocity has dropped by nearly 2.5 mph. Maybe he needs more time to get going, maybe the pectoral injury is still bothering him, but either way, it's definitely a problem.
Holland simply hasn't looked good this year. Unless he shows dramatic improvement, continuing to put him in high-leverage situation will get riskier and riskier, especially when you have arguably the best reliever in the game sitting behind him.
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What would we get in return?
It's tough to gauge what the Royals would get in return for Greg Holland, since there are a lot of variables in play.
Greg Holland alone might not be enough to get the pieces we'd want for a postseason run. But if you threw in some prospects, you might have enough to make an offer for a top starting pitcher or second baseman.
For some perspective, Andrew Miller was probably the top reliever on the market last year. The Red Sox were able to get Eduardo Rodriguez, a top pitching prospect, from the Orioles in exchange for Miller.
Greg Holland is better than Andrew Miller.
Regardless of all the bad stuff we just mentioned in the previous section, teams will still view Holland as an elite reliever. The upside is still there. Particularly desperate teams will believe that Holland will bounce back quickly and save their bullpen.
There's no guarantee that he's the savior they expect.
We should also consider who the Royals might be trading with. Some of the worst bullpens in baseball coincide with some of the worst teams in baseball (odd, isn't it?).
By ERA, the Athletics have the worst bullpen in baseball; the Reds have the fifth-worst. In between are the Rockies, Rangers and Braves, teams with no good starting pitching on the block (Rockies, Braves) or just managing to stay afloat (Rangers).
Yovani Gallardo might not be on the block, but Johnny Cueto and Scott Kazmir likely will. Additionally, both the Reds and A's are teams that could be eyeing quick rebuilds; they may be more willing to gamble on just one extra year of control for Holland.
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I'm no GM - and I've never done any sort of "GM for a day" scenarios - so I don't have a great grasp on what players GMs value more than others, especially at the prospect level. But it would feel wrong to end the article without some sort of trade proposal, so here goes:
The Royals trade RHP Greg Holland and two prospects to the Reds for RHP Johnny Cueto
I don't know who the prospects would be. There are several you could slip in there, but we probably wouldn't be happy with losing any of them. Sometimes, sacrifices need to be made.
Truthfully, I think it's more likely the Royals try to make a deal for Kazmir. But Cueto is the deal that I'd prefer to see. Cueto would immediately slot in as the #1 starter and would be a terrific anchor for our rotation.
As for the bullpen? The loss of Holland would sting a little bit, but in the end, the bullpen would be just fine.