Opinion

Royals closer Greg Holland to undergo Tommy John surgery Friday

Greg Holland, the two-time All-Star former closer for Kansas City, will undergo Tommy John surgery on Friday in Los Angeles. Holland probably will miss all of the 2016 season, and the Royals are likely to nontender him and look for a multiyear deal to keep him in the organization.
Greg Holland, the two-time All-Star former closer for Kansas City, will undergo Tommy John surgery on Friday in Los Angeles. Holland probably will miss all of the 2016 season, and the Royals are likely to nontender him and look for a multiyear deal to keep him in the organization. jsleezer@kcstar.com

Greg Holland, the two-time All-Star former closer for Kansas City, will undergo Tommy John surgery on Friday in Los Angeles. Neal ElAttrache, the orthopedic surgeon who Holland visited earlier this week for a second opinion on his torn ulnar collateral ligament, will perform the procedure.

The Royals believe Holland suffered the injury in early September 2014, when the training staff initially diagnosed Holland with likely ligament damage. Holland chose to pitch instead of surgery, and posted a 0.82 ERA for the Royals in their first playoff appearance since 1985.

During the offseason, the Royals hoped Holland could recover enough from time off to perform capably again in 2015. But his fastball velocity dropped into the low 90s, he lost command of his slider and his ERA bloated to 3.83. Holland still managed to save 32 games, enough to keep himself in the closer’s role up until earlier this month.

After a road trip to Tampa Bay in late August, Holland underwent his first MRI on the elbow. The examination revealed a torn ligament. Holland insisted to Royals officials he felt healthy enough to compete and collect outs. The Royals gave him another chance.

When Holland returned to action, his fastball hovered in the upper 80s. He blew a save in Detroit on Sept. 18. Yost removed Holland from the closer’s role and inserted Wade Davis into that spot. Holland was informed he no longer had a set responsibility in the team’s bullpen hierarchy, at which point he opted for surgery.

The procedure usually requires a rehabilitation period that lasts 12 to 14 months. The Royals most likely will be forced to nontender Holland in the offseason. He is entering his final year of arbitration eligibility. Holland earned $8.25 million in 2015, so would likely receive a raise well past the eight-figure mark.

Kansas City is unlikely to pay Holland more than $10 million to rehab, but the organization could negotiate a multiyear contract in order to secure Holland’s services for 2017. Holland recently changed representation and signed with Scott Boras, one of the game’s most powerful agents.

Last winter, Boras negotiated a two-year contract with Luke Hochevar, who missed all of 2013 with Tommy John surgery.

At his peak, from 2011 to 2014, Holland was the most dominant reliever in the American League. He posted a 1.86 ERA and struck out 12.6 batters per nine innings. He saved 125 games these past three seasons.

Andy McCullough: 816-234-4730, @McCulloughStar. Download True Blue, The Star’s free Royals app, here.

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