NOVEMBER 7: Texas has not been able to find a trade partner and will officially decline Holland’s option today, per MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan (via Twitter).
OCTOBER 31, 8:45pm: Texas has informed Holland that his option won’t be picked up — at least, not to play with the Rangers, according to MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan. It isn’t clear at this point what kinds of scenarios the Rangers are weighing with regard to the southpaw.
Holland could conceivably be moved for another veteran with a reasonably hefty salary or instead be cashed in for some prospect value. It’s also possible that Texas could contribute cash to boost the return. While there isn’t an immense amount of surplus value in Holland’s contract, interested rivals will surely be intrigued at the possibility of getting him for a one-year commitment with another available option year rather than possibly being forced to promise more to woo him via free agency.
7:11pm: The Rangers are willing to trade left-hander Derek Holland, over whom they hold an $11MM club option with a $1.5MM buyout, reports Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports. Heyman hears that Holland may have played his final game as a member of the Rangers, writing that they’d prefer to move him rather than keep him on the books. Furthermore, he tweets that a few teams are showing interest in Holland, and a trade would happen “soon” if it were to take place. The timing component of that followup isn’t much of a surprise, as teams have until five days after the conclusion of the World Series to decide on the options for their players, but it’s certainly notable that teams are expressing interest.
While Holland may not appear like a highly appealing trade candidate on the heels of a disappointing season, there are a few reasons to believe that clubs would be willing to take him on at $11MM next year. First and foremost, the free-agent market for starting pitching is a veritable wasteland this offseason, with the top names available including Rich Hill, Jeremy Hellickson and Ivan Nova. Sheer supply and demand should lead to interest in Holland, especially if the Rangers are willing to pick up a bit of the tab or to take on another fairly notable contract in return.
At 30 years old, Holland is still young enough to believe that there could be a rebound in his bottom-line results, which admittedly weren’t pretty in 2016. Holland had his healthiest season since 2013 this year — he’s missed time previously due to shoulder and knee injuries — but he pitched his way out of the rotation and ultimately finished the year with a 4.95 ERA in 107 1/3 innings. His average fastball velocity was 93.6 mph during a terrific 2013 season, but injuries and aging caused that mark to dip to 91.7 mph this past season. Accordingly, Holland’s K/9 rate has dipped from 8.0 to 5.6, and his ground-ball rate fell south of 40 percent this season as well.
None of that paints a very good picture, of course, but Holland’s unsightly ERA would be nearly a full run lower were it not for an 11-run drubbing that was handed out by the Blue Jays in Toronto back on May 5. He went on to post a 4.42 ERA from that point forth and at one point went through a stretch of 10 outings where he delivered seven quality starts and posted a 3.65 ERA. While the overall season was one to forget, there were glimpses of the pitcher that once looked to be developing into a Rangers rotation mainstay. It’s not uncommon for rebound candidates to get several million dollars in free agency anyway, and Holland’s contract comes with the upside of a club option for the 2018 season. If he’s able to rebound even to the point where he pitches like a solid fourth starter, Holland would prove to be a nice value with that extra year of club control.
The lack of quality hurlers on the market was one of the primary reasons that I recently examined a number of borderline club options for starting pitchers, including Holland, and opined that teams would be wise to exercise the options even if the ultimate outcome was that those arms would be traded. Based on Heyman’s report, it sounds like the Rangers could potentially move Holland even before that decision is due, and it’s certainly not out of the question that others such as Jaime Garcia and Clay Buchholz could find themselves in a similar boat. Certainly, teams with club options over borderline players are feeling out the trade market right now in similar fashion to the Rangers, as evidenced by Ken Rosenthal’s report from earlier today that the likes of Pat Neshek, Fernando Rodney and Carlos Ruiz are all available in trade talks.