MLBTR reported yesterday that the new collective bargaining agreement contains a provision whereby any Article XX(B) free agent — that is, a player with at least six years of service time who finished the prior season on a big league roster or injured list — who signs a minor league contract will have three uniform opt-out dates in his contract, so long as that minor league deal is signed 10 days prior to Opening Day. Those opt-out dates are five days before the start of the regular season, May 1 and June 1.
That report identified 12 players who fit this criteria and have the ability to opt out today, with Holland being one of them. The negotiations of that CBA led to a delayed and shortened spring training, which perhaps played a role in the fact that these dozen players didn’t exercise their first opt-out opportunity before Opening Day. Holland essentially laid out this logic when not exercising his first opt-out back in early April, saying “I’ve only been able to showcase two innings” as his reason for sticking with the club. Now that the minor league season has been going for close to a month, it’s possible that this is the first of many opt-outs today, as any of those listed players that are healthy could reasonably try to find a better opportunity with another club.
Now 35, Holland has appeared in each of the past 13 MLB seasons. A starting pitcher for most of his career, he’s transitioned into an innings-eater out of the bullpen in recent years. Last year, he threw 49 2/3 innings for the Tigers with a 5.07 ERA, with a 22.7% strikeout rate, 8.9% walk rate and 45.4% ground ball rate, with all of those being close to league average. Through 9 1/3 innings with Triple-A Worcester this year, he has a 5.79 ERA, striking out ten batters but walking six of them. The path to a job with the big league club isn’t smooth right now, as they has five healthy starters, with Garrett Whitlock recently bumping Tanner Houck into a piggyback/long relief role in the bullpen. Rosters are also shrinking after today’s game, with a 14-pitcher maximum taking effect. Boston currently has 15 hurlers on the active roster, meaning they will have to squeeze someone out.