When hearing rumors like the one connecting the Astros with Free Agent reliever Greg Holland, writers like myself call it a “slam dunk” for debunkment.
According to Jim Bowden on Twitter today, Holland is close to deciding on a team to sign with. The rumor mill has already connected Holland with the Astros, though no credible connection has been cited even via the eponymous “anonymous sources” source.
No, the Astros aren’t going to sign Greg Holland.
First, there’s not a strong argument that Holland would be an upgrade over the myriad of candidates the Astros already have for the last bullpen spot.
Well, okay, there’s a strong argument that he’s better than Buddy Boshers, Tony Sipp, and Anthony Gose. Maybe James Hoyt, but I dunno. Not at the potential cost.
Holland, 32, holds a 3.61 ERA and 3.72 FIP over the past two seasons, with a K-BB% of 18.7%. These stats are a far cry from his performance prior to 2016, during which his numbers were 2.15, 2.12, and 24%.
At the end of 2015, Holland suffered an injury to his elbow, leading to Tommy John Surgery. Since his return, his fastball velocity has dropped 3 mph. Essentially he’s not the same pitcher.
Without any reason to think Holland can return to his prior elite form, he is not a better option for the Astros than Collin McHugh and probably James Hoyt. Although McHugh has never pitched in relief during his major league career for any length of time, he strikes out almost a batter per inning and posts a K-BB% of 16% as a starting pitcher. Examples of past starting pitchers converting to the bullpen usually result in increased velocity and strikeouts.
Would the Astros rather have McHugh in the bullpen at his current salary? Or McHugh in AAA, with Holland providing likely similar performance, but for somewhere in the neighborhood of $10 million per season?
And there are reasons to think that Hoyt could outperform Holland. All of the projection systems already think he will, and the 30-year-old reliever posted a 3.30 FIP last season with an early-Holland-like 25% K-BB.
Just because of roster makeup, the Astros have no incentive to pay for Holland as an expensive free agent.
But wait, there’s more!
This offseason, Holland declined the Rockies’ qualifying offer of 1 year, $17.4 million (dumb). While that makes him an unrestricted free agent, any club signing him forfeits their first 2019 draft pick.
The Astros love drafting, and have not signed a QO-declined Free Agent during GM Jeff Luhnow’s tenure.
Adding a pitcher who has only dubious claims to potential improvements over in-house options, will be several times as expensive as in-house options, sends good major league in-house options to AAA or to other teams, and costs the Astros a draft pick makes no sense.
It isn’t happening.