With Tyler Clippard signed, virtually all of the elite relievers are now off of the free agent market.
One star closer, however, remains: Greg Holland. The former Royals closer has a 2.15 ERA and 145 saves in 295 games over the last five seasons. He is a two-time All-Star, finished ninth in Cy Young voting twice, and won the Mariano Rivera Award as the American League’s best relief pitcher in 2014.
Under most circumstances, he would have been signed to a multi-year deal months ago.
However, Holland comes with a twist: He will be unable to pitch in 2016 after undergoing Tommy John surgery in October. So any team signing Holland would be doing so for 2017.
The Diamondbacks will be in need of a closer next season. Incumbent Brad Ziegler is 36 years old and will be a free agent after this year. Unless the Diamondbacks plan to give an unproven youngster like Tyler Wagner or career setup man Clippard the keys to the closer position, they will likely need to go outside of the organization to find their ninth-inning guy. Signing Greg Holland could be the most cost-efficient way of adding a closer to fill Ziegler’s spot while keeping Clippard in an eighth-inning role.
Holland will be just 31 by 2017. Tommy John surgery has a success rate of about 80 percent so it’s reasonable to believe that Holland can contribute to the team next season. It’s also possible that he could come back stronger than he was before—he pitched through an elbow injury suffered in late-2014 throughout last season, where he had a 3.83 ERA. He had a 1.21 mark in 2013 and a 1.44 in 2014. Anything close to that would drastically improve the Diamondbacks’ ninth-inning situation.
Greg Holland represents a golden opportunity for the Diamondbacks to secure their closer for next season right now. Next year’s free agent class features several star relievers, such as Aroldis Chapman, Jonathan Papelbon and Kenly Jansen. But many of those pitchers will come at upwards of $10 million annually. Holland will likely command much less than that—while still providing potential for dominance. The team should offer him a back-loaded two-year deal. This would allow the team to keep tabs on him while he rehabs, with the goal of pitching Opening Day in 2017.