Edit: The previous version of this story asserted the Royals offered Holland a contract last off-season. According to Sam Mellinger’s reporting, they offered the contract after the 2015 season. We apologize for the misunderstanding.
The Royals find themselves back into contention after a rough start, but with a record around .500. They have publicly proclaimed themselves as buyers, rather than sellers, and one of the areas they have looked for depth is in the bullpen. Long gone are the days of HDH, and while Kelvin Herrera, Joakim Soria, and Mike Minor have been adequate, the Royals no longer feature the dominating pen of their championship days.
Meanwhile, in Colorado, former Royals closer Greg Holland has flourished with 1.62 ERA and a league-high 28 saves so far. The Rockies took a gamble on Holland as he missed all of 2016 recovering from Tommy John surgery. Holland was unimpressive in a showcase for teams last winter, but the Rockies rolled the dice and guaranteed him $6 million plus a $15 million player option with a $1 million buyout with the chance to earn up to $17 million in incentives.
You could forgive the Royals for not being interested in offering that much guaranteed money considering the track record of Tommy John surgery survivors is not great. But Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star reports that the Royals certainly gave it their best effort. Following the 2015 season, the Royals made an offer to Holland that would have locked him up for the 2017 season.
The Royals tried, offering a two-year deal that would’ve covered his rehab and guaranteed about $8.5 million with up to $5 million more in performance bonuses.
Holland instead chose to wait it out, and while he ended up getting less guaranteed money in 2017, he will receive much more in bonuses, with a lucrative $15 million player option in 2018. According to Cot’s Contracts, Greg Holland gets $500,000 for hitting the following games appeared benchmarks - 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, and 55. He also gets $1 million each for finishing 20 and 30 games, and $2 million each for finishing 40, 50, and 60 games each. Holland is on pace to hit all of those benchmarks except the 60 games finished mark, which he is just short of being on pace for. If he hits all those benchmarks, he could earn $21 million this season.
“We just didn’t match up, the numbers weren’t right,” Holland said of the Royals. “I would’ve loved to have stayed there the next 15 years. It just doesn’t work like that in baseball, especially for a relief pitcher.”
Perhaps the Royals should have made a stronger offer to Holland, or made more of a play this past off-season. although a $21 million salary for 2017 would have been very difficult for them to swallow. And in fairness, no one though Holland would bounce back and become this effective. The signing may not have mattered much - the Royals are 39-1 when leading after eight innings this season.
But bringing back Greg Holland may have eased the pain of the Wade Davis trade blowing up in their face, and allowed Herrera to ease into his more familiar setup role, strengthening the depth of the bullpen. It is hard to fault the Royals too much here, but it sure would be nice to have Dirty South coming out of that pen right now.