The Royals have re-signed reliever Greg Holland, the team announced. It’s a one-year, $2.75MM deal, reports Jeff Passan of ESPN (Twitter link). The pact also contains a possible $1.5MM in incentives, reports Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com (via Twitter).
Holland, 35, had a stellar rebound effort in Kansas City this past season after a pair of down years. Over 28.1 innings spanning 28 games, the right-hander worked to a 1.91 ERA/2.52 FIP. His 27.7% strikeout rate, while strong, wasn’t much different than it had been in prior seasons. Holland’s turnaround was more a reflection of a significant improvement in his strike-throwing. After walking over 15% of opposing hitters in each of the prior two seasons, the veteran sliced his walk rate to 6.3% in his return trip to Kansas City.
Always known for his slider, Holland leaned on the breaking stuff more than ever last season. Cutting his fastball rate from nearly half to less than two-fifths of his offerings, per Brooks Baseball, Holland generated whiffs on 13.1% of his pitches despite pedestrian velocity. Using the heater less often corresponded with an improvement in the pitch’s effectiveness. Presumably, that reflects opposing hitters’ expectations of seeing a breaking ball.
Even though the Royals weren’t contenders, Holland stayed in Kansas City past this year’s August 31 trade deadline. He’ll now return for another season at the back end of an intriguing bullpen. Kyle Zimmer, Josh Staumont, Jesse Hahn and Scott Barlow all join Holland in coming off strong seasons, making the relief corps a high-upside area of the roster for manager Mike Matheny.
This continues an active early portion of the offseason for Royals GM Dayton Moore and the front office. Moore suggested last month he expects the club to be competitive next season. Kansas City has since brought back Holland and added Carlos Santana and Mike Minor. The Royals still seem like something of a longshot to stick with the Twins, White Sox and Indians over a full season, but they’re markedly improved over the 2018-19 teams that each lost over 100 games.