8:24pm: Holland can earn $1.25MM upon making the Royals’ roster with another $1.125MM available via incentive pay, tweets Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com.
7:53pm: The Royals have agreed to a minor league contract with right-hander Greg Holland, tweets Mark Feinsand of MLB.com. He’ll be in Major League camp this spring and look to secure a spot in the team’s bullpen. The agreement marks a reunion between the two sides, as Holland was a 2007 draftee of the Royals and starred in their bullpen from 2011-15 before undergoing Tommy John surgery.
Holland’s return from Tommy John surgery in 2017 proved to be a success, as he anchored the bullpen for a Rockies club that secured an NL Wild Card playoff berth and paced the senior circuit in both games finished (58) and saves (41). Holland logged a 3.61 ERA and averaged 11 punchouts per nine innings that year, but he showed some worrying red flags late in the summer and struggled to find the type of lucrative deal he’d hoped in free agency.
The right-hander eventually signed an Opening Day deal with the Cardinals (where current Royals skipper Mike Matheny was managing at the time), locking in a $14MM salary for the 2018 campaign. Holland sprinted through a minor league tuneup and was in the big leagues just nine days after signing, and the veteran closer never seemed to find his footing. He posted a disastrous 7.92 ERA in 25 innings as a Cardinal before being released in a summer bullpen shakeup … only to latch on with the Nationals and rattle off 21 1/3 innings of 0.82 ERA ball. A once-again resurgent Holland landed a one-year deal with the Diamondbacks last winter and posted a 4.54 ERA with 10.3 K/9 against an unpalatable 6.1 BB/9 before being released in August.
Kansas City is clearly hoping that the reunion will yield dividends, although five full seasons have elapsed since the now-34-year-old Holland turned in a full, dominant season of relief work. That said, the Royals’ bullpen is hardly a collection of juggernaut relievers, either. Starter-turned-closer Ian Kennedy is again in line for ninth-inning duties, but the entire setup is unproven. Hard-throwing Scott Barlow showed flashes of brilliance in 2019 but lacked consistency. Right-hander Kevin McCarthy was a durable middle man but struggled to miss bats. Southpaw Tim Hill has had mixed results in his two big league seasons but is coming off a quality ’19 campaign.
Other options in the K.C. ’pen include injury reclamation Jesse Hahn, waiver claim Randy Rosario, injury-prone former first rounder Kyle Zimmer and Rule 5 pick Stephen Woods. Suffice it to say, there’s plenty of room for Holland (and others) to force his way into the mix if he can impress Royals decision-makers this spring. It’s quite arguable, in fact, that the Royals should’ve done more to address such an uncertain unit this winter, although much of the relief market has already been picked clean.