As will happen with most free agents that hit the board each year, the Yankees somehow manage to be connected with each one of them. Such was the case this week when it was speculated that the club had reached out to free agent pitcher Derek Holland. The Texas Rangers exercised their $1.5 million buyout on the left-hander rather than ponying up the $11.5 million for the option remaining on his contract.
Holland’s career got off to a promising start for the Rangers and he pitched 213 innings in 2013 to the tune of a 3.42 ERA and 3.44 FIP. Knee and shoulder injuries have limited him to just 203.0 IP total over the last 3 seasons combined. 2016 saw his ERA and FIP skyrocket to 4.95 and 4.75, respectively.
The Yankees have an obvious need for starting pitching heading in to 2017. Adding uncertainty to a rotation full of question marks is not necessarily the right path to take. The 3 headliners all have issues; Masahiro Tanaka with a UCL tear that could rear its ugly head at any time, Michael Pineda coming off of a terrible and inconsistent 2016, and C.C. Sabathia a year older and having recent knee problems. Nathan Eovaldi will likely miss all of 2017 while he rehabs from his second Tommy John surgery.
Being able to add a left-handed starter would be a great addition for the Yankees, but trying to hope Holland could live up to his previous success with the Rangers might be pushing it a bit. Even the hope of just having a veteran innings eater available while waiting on help from the farm system or the big free agent class of 2018 would be a big boost. But Holland hasn’t shown that he is capable of holding up to give a club 170-180 innings and 2013 is getting pretty far back in the rear-view mirror.
Earlier in his career, Holland went essentially with a combination of fastball, changeup, and slider. With a drop in velocity after his knee surgery, Holland has taken to relying on his sinker more. With his fastball now down closer in velocity to his slider, it makes it easier for batters to gear up for the fastball and still be able to fight off the slider, making it less effective. Holland’s heavy sinker mostly sits middle of the zone inward to right-handed hitters. He pitches more to contact and when you combine that with a career low 38% ground ball rate in 2016, it tells me that a lot of balls could be flying out of Yankee Stadium with him on the mound.
With a pitching thin market this off-season, there is speculation that Holland could command a contract something along the lines of 1 year/$10 million or 2 years/$18 million. He will more than likely get a one year deal. I could see the Yankees taking a flyer on him on a 1 year/$5 million deal laden with incentives. But, I feel they should pass on anything more than that. I would rather see them take a shot at a more dependable innings eater through the trade market and try to figure out the rest through a combination of Bryan Mitchell, Luis Cessa, and Chad Green.
If Holland is finally healthy enough to pitch a full season, and if he could get back to keeping the ball on the ground, he would be capable of having a reasonable amount of success in Yankee Stadium. Larry Rothschild has been known to work wonders with pitchers, but the track record over recent seasons for Holland is not much to like. And for the price, well, it’s just a little too rich for my liking.