Posted on January 30, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine
Few players are as eager to put the 2018 season behind them as Greg Holland. Fortunately for Holland, the Arizona Diamondbacks are giving him that opportunity. Holland and the Diamondbacks have reportedly agreed to a one-year deal worth $3.5 million. There is also another $3.5 million in incentives, giving Holland the potential to make $7 million in 2019.
Just a few years ago, Holland was one of the best closers in baseball. He was an all-star in 2013 and 2014, saving a combined 93 games for the Royals over those two seasons. He saved 32 more games in 2015 before he was sidelined by a tear in his UCL, forcing him to miss Kansas City’s run to the World Series that year. After sitting out the 2016 season while he recovered from Tommy John surgery, Holland signed with the Rockies in 2017 and led the National League with 41 saves while helping Colorado secure a Wild Card spot.
However, things fell apart for Holland in 2018. Despite being an all-star in 2017, Holland didn’t find a job last year until late March when the Cardinals gave him a one-year contract. After getting a late start to the season, Holland struggled mightily in St. Louis, posting a 7.92 ERA in 32 appearances. The Cardinals eventually cut ties with him at the end of July. Surprisingly, the Nationals picked up Holland, who turned his season around. He gave up just two runs over 21.2 innings with Washington to close out the 2018 season.
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Despite the strong finish, Holland finished last season with a 4.66 ERA, the highest since his rookie season in 2010. Also, based on his poor performance during the first half of the season and his 6.38 ERA during the second half of the 2017 season, Holland wasn’t viewed as one of the better late-inning relievers available this winter. However, with Holland agreeing to a cheap, incentive-laden contract, the budget-cutting Diamondbacks are giving him a chance to prove he can still be a quality reliever.
Of course, there’s no guarantee the 33-year-old Holland will be Arizona’s closer this season. That spot is open after the Diamondbacks chose to part ways with Brad Boxberger, who saved 32 games for them last year. However, Archie Bradley could be in line for the role this season. Bradley has adapted well to a bullpen job the past two seasons and should at least get a chance to audition for the closer’s job during spring training.
That being said, Bradley has little experience as a closer. He’s also proven to be valuable in a more flexible bullpen role rather than being tied to the 9th inning. In fact, the Diamondbacks might prefer if Holland were to earn the closer’s job. That would enable them to use Bradley and Yoshihisa Hirano, as well as lefties T.J. McFarland and Andrew Chafin in set up roles. That could end up being the best-case scenario for Arizona’s bullpen this season.
It’s worth noting that the Diamondbacks are a team in transition, and the signing of Holland reflects that. The club hopes he can be their closer and help solidify their bullpen. But even if he does, it doesn’t guarantee a winning season for the Diamondbacks. However, given his track record and salary, Holland is well worth the risk. If he flops, it won’t matter much because they didn’t need to make a large financial investment to sign him. On the off chance that Holland has a bounce-back year, he could end up being valuable either in their bullpen or as a mid-season trade chip.