4:08pm: Holland has a “significant” tear in his UCL, according to manager Ned Yost (via McCullough). Tommy John surgery is the likely course of action. Yost now believes Holland tore the ligament last August, meaning he pitched last September and the postseason as well as all of 2015 with a tear in the ligament. The Royals asked Holland to get his elbow checked out multiple times this season, McCullough adds, but he declined each time until last month.
3:55pm: Holland tells reporters, including McCullough (Twitter links) that an MRI taken earlier this month revealed ligament damage. He has, in fact, been battling discomfort since last August but did not want to undergo an MRI previously, as his desire was instead to pitch through the pain.
3:47pm: The Royals announced today that closer Greg Holland has been shut down for the season. Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star reports that Dr. Neal ElAttrache will examine Holland’s elbow next week (Twitter links). Per McCullough, the possibility of Tommy John surgery is looming, but nothing will be known until next week.
Holland was recently removed from the closer’s role in favor of Wade Davis. The formerly dominant closer has seen his velocity dramatically decrease recently and has posted a dismal 5.50 ERA on 24 hits and 11 walks in 18 second-half innings. His decline and subsequent loss for the postseason is a huge blow to the Royals, who reached Game 7 of the World Series in 2014 based largely on the dominant performances of Holland, Davis and Kelvin Herrera. Holland’s departure from the bullpen mix makes GM Dayton Moore’s signing of Ryan Madson look like that much more of a coup, as the former Phillies closer has rebounded decisively after a three-year absence due to injury; Madson has a brilliant 2.31 ERA with 8.3 K/9 against just 1.9 BB/9 in 58 1/3 innings this season.
The injury to Holland will put the Royals in a precarious position this winter. Always a team on a tight budget, there were questions last winter about Kansas City’s ability to pay both Holland and Davis at relatively premium rates. Holland took home an $8.25MM salary via the arbitration process, and he’ll be arb-eligible for the third and final time this winter. That means that Holland, who recently hired Scott Boras as his new agent, could be in line for a salary near or in excess of $10MM in spite of his second half struggles.
In the event that Holland requires Tommy John surgery, he’d be an easy call to non-tender, although that would be a disappointing way to end the Royals tenure of such a key organizational figure. The real dilemma, however, will be what to do with Holland in the event that he does not require Tommy John or any form of major surgery. One would imagine that his trade value is down due to underperformance, salary and, now, injury. The Royals could roll the dice and tender him a contract, but this year’s $112MM payroll is a club record. For a team that typically has operated with a sub-$100MM payroll, paying a potentially damaged relief pitcher $10MM+ is a dicey proposal, so the prospect of a non-tender for Holland has to be considered even in the event that major surgery isn’t required.