The Pirates’ GM Ben Cherington emerged from his new office this week with the first batch of transactions since he took over in Pittsburgh. The Starling Marte trade to Arizona was the headline-grabbiest of the bunch, wherein Cherington added two high-ceiling, but far-away prospects to Pittsburgh system.
A flurry of low-key pickups followed for Cherington as the Pirates bought in bulk: Charlie Tilson, Andrew Susac, JT Riddle, Robbie Erlin and Derek Holland signed minor league deals this week. Cherington gives Erlin a decent shot of joining the bullpen, which is otherwise without a lefty except for rotation candidate Steven Brault, per The Athletic’s Rob Biertempfel.
Holland, too, could end up in the bullpen, but like Brault, he’ll be given a shot at the rotation. Holland’s glory days as a Texas Ranger are long in the rearview, but his 2018 with the Giants at least gives the perception of a raised ceiling for Holland after otherwise forgettable stints with each Chicago team. It was just two seasons ago that Holland put up 171 1/3 innings with an impressive 3.57 ERA/3.87 FIP across 36 games for the Giants.
Holland’s shoe game remained on-point in 2019, but he struggled on the hill, both for the Giants and then for the Cubs. He only got 7 turns through the rotation to start the season, but 26 earned runs in 34 1/3 innings earned a demotion to the bullpen, where he stayed until the deadline trade to the Cubs. The Cubs relied on him as a lefty reliever out of the pen, but he struggled there, too, marking a 10.50 ERA in September, contributing to the Cubs’ tailspin.
Still, he’ll come into camp representing a veteran floor for the Pittsburgh rotation as Brault and Mitch Keller try to earn their spot. If the young Pirate arms aren’t ready to take the ball every five days, Holland could find himself back in a big league rotation in 2020.