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.