As the Royals took the field Tuesday for their first full-squad workout of the spring, general manager Dayton Moore said the club still possessed interest in a reunion with Greg Holland, the former All-Star closer who was an integral piece in the franchise’s rise.
Holland, 30, remains a free agent as big-league camps get underway, a pitcher weighing his options as his right arm recovers from Tommy John surgery. The Royals remain interested in signing him to a multi-year contract. For the moment, there appears little reason to rush.
Holland underwent a procedure to repair the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow on Oct. 2. He will not pitch in 2016. His health status expedited his departure from Kansas City.
With the right-hander entering his final year of arbitration and due to make close to $10 million in salary in 2016, the Royals declined to tender Holland a contract and let him become a free agent in December. As spring training camps opened last week, Holland remained without a home.
“There’s not a lot to say at this point in time, other than we do remain interested in Greg Holland,” Moore told The Star on Wednesday.
The factors that would prompt a return are simple. Holland, a former 10th-round pick in 2007, developed into one of the game’s best closers under the Royals’ watch. He saved 93 games in 2013 and 2014 while posting a 1.32 ERA. A damaged elbow limited his effectiveness in 2015. But as the Royals rose to power in the American League, Holland bolstered one of the game’s best bullpens.
If the Royals could work out a multi-year deal for Holland, he could be available to return for the start of the 2017 season.
“He’s a home-grown player,” Moore said. “We’ve always believed in him. He’s been a very successful part of our team. We would love to be able to have him here as part of our future.”
The Royals’ deep bullpen has been critical to the club’s championship formula. When elbow discomfort ended Holland’s 2015 season in September, setup man Wade Davis stepped into the closer’s role and flourished, closing out series-clinching wins in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series and Game 5 of the World Series. Davis, one of the best relievers in baseball over the last two seasons, entered camp as the unquestioned alpha male in the Royals’ relief corps.
The Royals also committed $25 million to former closer Joakim Soria in a three-year deal this offseason. Right-handers Kelvin Herrera and Luke Hochevar also return to fortify the bridge to Davis.
The bullpen could retain its ferociousness for the foreseeable future. The club possesses a $10 million team option on Davis for the 2017 season. Herrera is under club control through 2018.
Holland, meanwhile, could still be a part of the bullpen’s future. He will spend most of the 2016 season in a rehab program, testing out his surgically-repaired elbow in various phases. He should be healthy to return for spring training in 2017, barring any setbacks.
For now, the Royals remain interested in a deal for Holland. The market will likely decide if a return becomes reality.