Greg Holland Rumors

Royals Shopping Infante, Listening On Relievers

TODAY: Kansas City is leaving other clubs with the impression that they are willing, albeit hesitant, to deal from amongst its trio of late-inning arms, Jayson Stark of ESPN.com reports (Twitter links). To do so, however, the Royals would need a controllable player at a position of need: either an impact bat in right or a starting pitcher.

YESTERDAY, 12:30pm: The Royals are making Omar Infante available, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter).

Roughly one year ago today, the Royals signed Infante to a four-year deal for more than $30MM plus incentives with a $10MM team option for 2018.  The soon-to-be 33-year-old batted .318/.345/.450 with 10 homers and solid second base defense for the Tigers in 2013.  However, his production slid in 2014 as he hit just .252/.295/.337 with subpar work in the field (-3.0 UZR/150).  His .632 OPS was his worst in nearly a decade, but with a lack of quality second base options out there, Infante could have value.

12:08pm: The Royals have been telling teams that relievers Greg Holland, Wade Davis, and Kelvin Herrera are not available, according to Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star (via Twitter).  McCullough cautions (link) that that things could conceivably change with David Robertson now off the market, however.

That news comes as something of a surprise given the amount of trade buzz we’ve heard about the trio this week.  Just yesterday we heard that the Royals were listening to offers on all three relievers with an eye on turning their bullpen strength into an outfield bat.  Trading a reliever could bring KC a much more affordable outfield solution than, say, free agent Melky Cabrera, but it would also chip away at what helped make the Royals such a strong team in 2014.

The Blue Jays were said to be in pursuit of Holland and the Royals reportedly considered him to be available, albeit with a high price tag.  McCullough speculated that Holland’s delivery and build could have KC worried about his durability, but their concerns might not be enough for them to ship him out.  MLBTR’s Matt Swartz projects him to earn $9.3MM in 2015, but that doesn’t appear to be a prohibitive cost for KC.


Latest On Royals Relievers

11:01am: Kansas City is also receiving interest in Herrera, Jayson Stark of ESPN.com reports (Twitter links). The Royals are telling teams that they would prefer not to move any of their relievers, but feel they must listen because the free agent market is so light on bats.

2:22am: The Blue Jays are pursuing a trade for Royals closer Greg Holland, Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun reports.  Holland is “available, but they’re [the Royals] asking for a lot in return,” according to a source familiar with the negotiations.

Holland has been one of baseball’s top relief arms for the last four seasons, yet with a rising price tag through the arbitration process (MLBTR’s Matt Swartz projects him to earn $9.3MM in 2015), the right-hander may simply be getting too expensive for Kansas City to keep.  The Royals will continue to hear offers for both Holland and Wade Davis during the Winter Meetings, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star writes, and could be moved to part with either bullpen ace for either an outfielder or a starting pitcher.

The Royals’ top relievers demonstrated their importance throughout the team’s run to the World Series last fall, but the team is currently projected to pay nearly $24MM next season to five bullpen arms — Holland, Davis, Kelvin Herrera (who’s also arb-eligible), Jason Frasor and Luke Hochevar.  Between Holland and Davis, McCullough feels the Royals might prefer to trade Holland, whose delivery and build might lead to fears that he won’t hold up over time.  Holland is also more expensive due to his two remaining arbitration years, whereas the Royals have cost-certainty on Davis due to the club options they hold on his contract.

Holland would obviously generate considerable interest if he was shopped, though McCullough notes that getting top value for him might be tricky.  “The interested club must be close to contention, willing to spend on a niche resource and uninterested in the newfound prevailing logic on relief pitchers,” McCullough writes, namely the fact that teams are less willing than they once were to pay heavily for a “proven closer.”

The Jays check at least one of those boxes since they’re hoping to challenge for the AL East title in 2015, and they’re known to be looking for relief help during the Winter Meetings to address their vacancy at closer.  While Holland would be expensive over his two remaining years of team control, the Blue Jays might prefer giving a big salary to a closer for two seasons rather than guaranteeing four seasons to David Robertson, who Toronto has also been linked to in rumors.  One obstacle to a Holland trade could be that the Jays are themselves a little short on outfield and starting pitching depth, having already traded or non-tendered Anthony Gose, John Mayberry, Andy Dirks, J.A. Happ, Sean Nolin and Kendall Graveman in several transactions this offseason.


Rosenthal On Clippard, Royals, Romo, Gregerson

The Nationals are “likely” to trade setup man Tyler Clippard, a source tells FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal.  MLBTR’s Matt Swartz projects Clippard will earn $9.3MM in his final year of arbitration eligibility before hitting the free agent market following the 2015 season, and with closer Drew Storen projected to land a $5.8MM contract as well, moving Clippard would allow the Nats to save some money at the back of their bullpen.

Here’s some more from Rosenthal on the relief market…

  • The Royals have received trade interest in Greg Holland and Wade Davis, and one of the two relief stars could conceivably be moved for a hitter.  Swartz projects Holland to earn $9.3MM in arbitration this winter, while K.C. already picked up their $7MM option on Davis for 2015.  Holland can be a free agent after 2016, the Royals hold two more option years on Davis and Kelvin Herrera is also now arb-eligible, so Kansas City may simply not be able to afford their dominant late-game trio for much longer.
  • Sergio Romo and Luke Gregerson are receiving more interest now that Andrew Miller is off the board.  Neither pitcher has generated much on the rumor mill to date this offseason, though Romo has been cited as one of the Astros’ backup options after Miller signed with the Yankees.
  • The Dodgers are looking for bullpen upgrades but are wary about making any major commitments given how much money they’ve already invested in relief pitching.
  • Speaking of high-priced Dodgers relievers, the team’s new front office “is not enamored with” Brian Wilson.  The righty will earn $9.5MM in 2015 after exercising the player option given to him by previous L.A. general manager Ned Colletti.  Wilson posted a 4.66 ERA, 1.86 K/BB and 5.4 BB/9 over 48 1/3 IP in 2014 while suffering a drop in velocity, though it was his first full season after returning from Tommy John surgery.


Arbitration Breakdown: Greg Holland, Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen, Steve Cishek

Over the next few weeks, I will be discussing some of the higher profile upcoming arbitration cases. I will rely partly on my arbitration model developed exclusively for MLB Trade Rumors, but will also break out some interesting comparables and determine where the model might be wrong.

Four relievers enter their second year of arbitration eligibility this winter, with a chance to collectively make a huge impact on that market. Each will influence each other’s salary as they did last year, and will influence many players that follow in the coming years. Greg Holland, Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen, and Steve Cishek each became full-time closers during their second full seasons in 2012, and have dominated hitters since.

Becoming a closer so early was a rare feat just a few years ago. Teams used to give three-year or four-year deals worth upwards of $10 million per year for an “established” closer. Players like Francisco Cordero, Joe Nathan, Mariano Rivera, Brad Lidge, Francisco Rodriguez, Rafael Soriano, and Jonathan Papelbon signed such deals that began between 2008 and 2012, and few of those worked out. As I wrote several years ago, teams were paying far more per WAR for relievers than any other position on the diamond by far. Obviously the measurement of WAR is tricky, but regardless of how it is measured, it was clear that allocating $10 million to a guy to throw 60 innings three years down the line was not working out for many teams.

Fortunately, something happened that gave a number of teams the opportunity to change their ways. An onslaught of talented young pitchers emerged onto the scene with incredible fastballs, and many were given the opportunity to be closers quickly. Craig Kimbrel is actually from the same service class as these four players but he signed a four-year deal last winter. However, that makes five teams who quickly established a young arm in the closing position and had some success with it. Of course, now that these guys have some experience, the price has gone up.

Holland had the best year of the foursome, with a 1.44 ERA and 46 saves. Jansen was no slouch with a 2.12 ERA and 44 saves, Chapman’s ERA was just 2.00 and he had 36 saves, while Cishek had 39 saves but a more pedestrian 3.17 ERA. As a result, the model predicted a $4.62MM raise for Holland, $3.5MM for Jansen, $3.1MM for Cishek, and $3.05MM for Chapman. The model weighs heavily on saves since the market for relievers has done so in recent years, so it has unsurprisingly ranked their raises by saves. Holland’s raise is actually subject to “The Kimbrel Rule,” which states that a player cannot beat the record for his role and service time by more than $1MM, so his projected raise is limited to $4.275MM (topping Francisco Rodriguez’s $3.275MM raise from 2007 by $1MM), which gives him a $8.95MM projected salary.

What makes these guys even more unique is the fact that so few teams have gone year-to-year in arbitration with their closers. Jason Motte, Jonathan Broxton, and Carlos Marmol have each gotten two-year or three-year deals in recent years. Obviously Kimbrel’s four-year deal meets those criteria as well.

In fact, the only closer with 30 saves in his platform season, 45 saves in his pre-platform seasons, and an ERA under 3.50 in the last five years who did get a one-year deal during his second year of arbitration was Jonathan Papelbon. He got a $3.1MM raise from the Red Sox in 2010 after putting together 38 saves and a 1.85 ERA. Before him, Francisco Rodriguez’s 2007 raise of $3.275MM is a possible clue (1.73 ERA and 47 saves), as could be Jose Valverde’s $2.7MM raise in 2008 (2.66 ERA, 47 saves), or Chad Cordero’s $2.05MM raise in 2008 (3.36 ERA, 37 saves). However, those last three cases are very old and are less likely to be considered in an arbitration case.

All four of the closers in question will basically have Jonathan Papelbon’s $3.1MM raise and whatever each other get as a reference. I think that there is a strong possibility that Chapman and Cishek do get right around their projected numbers, which are within $50K of Papelbon’s raise. I could see Chapman’s reputation pushing him a little higher, though. And I’m also inclined to agree with the model that Kenley Jansen and Greg Holland, with similar ERA’s and more saves than Papelbon, plus a few years of salary inflation behind their cases, are likely to top Papelbon’s raise. Jansen’s $3.5MM raise seems about right, and while I think the model’s estimate for Holland of a $4.62MM raise strikes me as unlikely, a Kimbrel rule-adjusted $4.275MM raise sounds reasonable.

If I had to guess, I think that these four guys will follow the model well. However, I think that they will either all collectively make the model look good, or the first guy will make it look bad, and the following three guys to sign will make it look worse as they affect each other’s cases. Without many historical comparables that look anything like this foursome, they will all become comparables for each other. Unless their teams follow the Braves and ink a multi-year deal, I would not be surprised if these four guys affect each other’s 2016 salaries as well.


Royals and Rockies Notes: Holland, Royals, Anderson

Here’s the latest from the Royals and Rockies:

  • The Royals should consider trading elite closer Greg Holland, opines C.J. Nitkowski of FOXSports (Rob Neyer agrees via Twitter). Holland is club controlled for two more seasons with rapidly increasing arbitration costs. Kansas City has other internal options like similarly elite reliever Wade Davis. Kelvin Herrera and Brandon Finnegan can help bridge the late innings in the event of a Holland departure. The club could also explore re-signing Luke Hochevar. Holland’s trade value can only go down, and dealing him could return good talent while opening payroll for other moves.
  • Also writing for FOXSports, FanGraphs’ Jeff Sullivan notes that the Royals have received a playoff windfall and could increase spending. Economist Vince Gennaro once estimated the value of a playoff appearance at $25MM to $70MM over five years. Those figures have probably increased with time. Whether the Royals reinvest their bounty remains to be seen.
  • Although the Rockies declined their $12MM option for pitcher Brett Anderson, they are interested in re-signing him, writes Thomas Harding of MLB.com. GM Jeff Bridich said it was too early in Anderson’s rehab process to commit $12MM, but that “we’re leaving the door open to Brett, depending on his health.”
  • The Rockies have several options on the free agent market to replace Anderson, reports Nick Groke of the Denver Post. Assuming the club reinvests the money saved from Anderson’s option, they could pursue any number of pitchers. Groke lists Brandon McCarthy, Ervin Santana, Francisco Liriano, and Justin Masterson as his favorite targets.

AL Notes: Provas, Beimel, Correa, Shields, Royals

Sad news today out of Chicago, as longtime White Sox scout Paul Provas passed away from brain cancer at age 63. As Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune reports, Provas had been scouting for the South Siders since 1993 after doing the same for the cross-town rival Cubs dating back to 1983. MLBTR extends its condolences to his family and friends.

Here are the day’s news and rumors out of the American League:

  • Left-hander Joe Beimel would love to return to the Mariners, and the team has expressed interest in re-signing him as a lefty specialist, reports Greg Johns of MLB.com in his latest Mariners Inbox. The veteran southpaw made the club after signing a minor league deal and posted a 2.20 ERA in 45 innings. Beimel’s 5.0 K/9 leaves something to be desired, but he was a legitimate weapon against lefties. Beimel held same-handed hitters to a .188/.217/.288 batting line. Sabermetric stats such as FIP (3.18) and xFIP (2.96) both approved of his work against left-handers, though he was well north of 5.00 in each stat when facing righties.
  • Astros GM Jeff Luhnow tells Marius Payton of CSN Houston that top prospect Carlos Correa‘s rehab is considered complete at this point (h/t: Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle on Twitter). Baseball America’s No. 3 midseason prospect saw his season come to an end prematurely due to a broken leg, but he was impressive when on the field, hitting .326/.415/.510 with six homers and 20 steals in 62 games at Class-A Advanced.
  • Even as the Royals are gunning for a World Series title in 2014, thoughts inevitably must drift at times to the future. Joel Sherman of the New York Post wonders whether starter James Shields may present a double-edged sword with his history of huge innings totals: on the one hand, those innings show his durability; on the other, they act as an arm odometer. Then, of course, there is the matter of his increasingly poor postseason track record.
  • Kansas City faces tough decisions as it ponders its amazing late-inning arms, Sherman adds. Wade Davis and Greg Holland might combine for a $15MM tab next year, with further increases for 2016. GM Dayton Moore said the team can fit those salaries, but also indicated that he already is thinking about how things will play out in the long run. “Yes, in the immediate, it works,” he said. “We can make that fit. But we do have to analyze our roster from an economic standpoint every year.”
  • Meanwhile, former Royals GM — and current Red Sox VP of player personnel — Allard Baird tells Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe that he looks back fondly on his time in Kansas City and is pleased with the club’s run of success. As Cafardo notes, Baird’s time resonates in the current roster, as he drafted players like Alex Gordon, Billy Butler, and Zack Greinke (who was later flipped for several current key roster pieces) during his time at the helm.

Royals, Holland Have Mutual Interest In Extension

The Royals avoided going to arbitration with Greg Holland when the two sides agreed to a one-year, $4.675MM contract earlier today, and that deal could be a harbinger for a multiyear commitment.  There is mutual interest between Holland and the Royals on a long-term deal, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star reports, though their most recent talks focused only on settling Holland's 2014 contract.

Holland has been one of baseball's top relief arms over the last three seasons, posting a 1.99 ERA and 268 strikeouts (against only 71 walks) in 194 innings out of the K.C. bullpen in 2011-13.  Since taking over as the Royals' closer in August 2012, Holland has racked up 63 saves, 47 of which came last season as part of a sterling campaign that saw Holland make the All-Star team and finish ninth in AL Cy Young Award voting. 

Holland, a client of Turner Gary Sports, is under team control through 2016.  As McCullough notes, Holland will only get more expensive if he keeps up his form over his final two years of arbitration eligibility.  A multiyear deal could help Kansas City keep Holland's salary in check, though there's a limit to what a mid-market team like the Royals can reasonably spend on a closer, even an elite one.  There's no immediate rush to lock Holland up, but if an extension can't be worked out over the next season or two, K.C. could look to trade the righty and install one of their other top bullpen arms (such as Kelvin Herrera, Aaron Crow, Tim Collins or Luke Hochevar) as closer.


Royals, Greg Holland Avoid Arbitration

The Royals announced (on Twitter) that they have avoided arbitration with All-Star closer Greg Holland. Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star tweets that the Turner Gary Sports client settled on a $4.675MM contract that includes a $50K bonus for making his second All-Star team.

Holland's deal is $25K north of the $4.65MM midpoint between his $5.2MM asking figure and the club's $4.1MM offer. His 2014 salary comes in just shy of the $4.9MM payday projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz.

Holland, who turned 28 in November, enjoyed a breakout season with the Royals in 2013 — his first full campaign as the team's closer. The North Carolina native turned in a stellar 1.21 ERA with 13.8 K/9, 2.4 and a 39.4 percent ground-ball rate en route to a club-record 47 saves and his first All-Star nod. His arbitration case was the final unsettled case for the Royals, meaning that GM Dayton Moore and his staff have successfully avoided a hearing in 2013 (as shown in MLBTR's Arbitration Tracker).


Arbitration Filing Numbers

MLBTR's Arbitration Tracker is the place to go to see the arbitration contracts agreed upon thus far, as well as the figures exchanged between teams and players that were not able to reach agreement before today's noon deadline to swap salary positions. Matt Swartz's arbitration projections are available here.

As MLBTR has previously explained, 146 players officially filed for arbitration (after some eligible and tendered players had alread reached agreement). Of those, 40 players will exchange figures with their clubs. Of course, those players can still reach agreements before their hearings (which will take place betwee February 1st and 21st). If the case goes to a hearing, the arbitrator must choose one side's figures, rather than settling on a midpoint.

For the Braves players listed below, however, Atlanta says it will cease negotiations and take all cases to a hearing. Two other teams that have swapped figures with some players — the Nationals and Indians — also have employed variations of the "file and trial" approach with their arbitration cases.

Though a tweet from FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal indicates that the Reds have joined the list of teams employing "file and trial," GM Walt Jocketty did not seem to echo that position in comments today to MLB.com's Mark Sheldon. It turns out that the team has only taken that position with respect to players whose deals were valued under the $2MM level, tweets Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports.

We will use this post to keep tabs on the the highest-stakes arbitration situations remaining — those where the player files for at least $4.5MM:


Aaron Crow, Tim Collins “Very Available” In Trades

The Royals boasted one of Major League Baseball's best bullpens in 2013, and they have no shortage of in-house replacements in the event of a trade. That surplus is one of the reasons that rival executives have told Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star that right-hander Aaron Crow and lefty Tim Collins "are very available" in trades. Said one official:

"Those are the guys they’d like to trade because they’re going to start to make a little bit of money. But the key thing for them is they have a lot of other guys ready to step in…guys who might be even better."

The Royals are also willing to at least entertain the thought of parting with prized closer Greg Holland, though according to Dutton they would need a "major" return for their ninth-inning man and aren't too keen on parting with him. One club official said to Dutton: "Are we actively looking to move Holland? No. But we’ve got to be open-minded to everything."

Both Crow and Collins are headed into the first year of arbitration eligibility. MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projected them to earn $1.9MM and $1MM, respectively. While neither salary is prohibitive (to say the least), the Royals currently project for an $87MM payroll, GM Dayton Moore has said he expects the 2014 payroll to mirror 2013's mark of $85MM. As Dutton points out, three years of either Crow or Collins would figure to fetch a nice haul on the trade market when pitchers like Joe Smith are signing for three years and $15.75MM.

Dutton writes that right-hander Wade Davis is expected to get a chance to work his way back into the rotation in Spring Training but may end up in the bullpen again. The bullpen seems to suit Davis much better, as he has a career 2.24 ERA as a reliever and 4.57 mark as a starter (5.67 in 2013). Given his $4.8MM guaranteed salary in 2014, I'd expect that Davis is a trade candidate as well, though the Royals may value his three cheap club options too highly to part with him.