On Wednesday afternoon, a few hours before Eric Hosmer was to board a flight for an hearing in Florida, the Royals struck a deal with him to wrap up all nine of their arbitration cases. The negotiations occupied the minds of team officials for much of the past month.
The grand winner in this process turned out to be closer Greg Holland, who agreed to an $8.25 million contract for 2015. His salary is now nearly commensurate with his performance. He will be paid like one of the top closers in the game.
The Royals still retain control of Holland through next season. After that, he can become a free agent. Asked about his contract situation on Wednesday morning, Holland maintained his interest in remaining in Kansas City, but indicated there was little discussion about a potential long-term extension during this round of negotiation.
“Especially when you lose guys like (James) Shields and stuff, the free-agent market’s on the top of your list,” Holland said. “You’ve got to take care of putting a team together. And then I feel like that arbitration thing sneaks up on you, so you want to just get something done so both sides can just move on and get ready for spring training.”
Holland earned $4.675 million for his work in 2014. He responded with another sterling season. He saved 46 games, struck out 13 batters per nine innings and retained a 1.44 ERA. During the past four seasons, he stands alone as the American League’s finest reliever, worth 9.4 wins above replacement. David Robertson resides in second place in that category, with 7.6 WAR.
So it makes sense for the Royals to consider a lengthier commitment with an elite talent. Holland shares that wish. But squaring the finances to satisfy both sides complicates that prospect.
“Both sides were interested,” Holland said. “And, I hope, still are. But it’s a business. We’ve got a lot of money in our bullpen right now.”
In 2015, the Royals will pay $22.65 million for the relief quintet of Holland, Wade Davis, Kelvin Herrera, Luke Hochevar and Jason Frasor. To put that total in perspective, the five members of the starting infield will earn $20.54 million. Which explains why the Royals might be reticent to commit an even larger expenditure to one of those relievers.
And it will cost a sizable amount to retain Holland.
This past winter displayed the dollars awaiting elite relievers on the market. The White Sox poached Robertson from the Yankees with a four-year, $46 million deal. To pre-empt Robertson’s departure, the Yankees nabbed lefty Andrew Miller with a four-year, $36 million contract.
Miller has saved precisely one (1) game in nine big-league seasons (he spent a few years as a wayward starter before rejuvenating himself as a reliever). Holland has saved 113. His case for a major payday is strong.
“I think both sides would like to work something out at some point,” Holland said. “But it’s a fine line to get both sides happy and to feel comfortable.”
From The Star
1. Eric Hosmer avoided arbitration when he struck a two-year, $13.9 million deal hours before he was scheduled to fly to Tampa for a hearing.
2. Luke Hochevar is about a week behind his teammates as camp begins. His health is the key to the team’s bullpen composition.
3. When pitchers and catchers report on Thursday, all will be quiet. Ned Yost told his players to take the day off.
4. Here is a video dispatch from Surprise. Credit to Star photog John Sleezer for shooting said video, and subsequently editing out all the discussion of Hosmer’s arbitration hearing.
Here is some rock music
“So. Central Rain“ by R.E.M.