The Kansas City Royals proved last October how important having a good bullpen is. The team was able to virtually shorten games to six innings as a result of having Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis, and Greg Holland pitch the seventh, eighth and ninth innings, respectively. However, the Royals are a small market team and after picking up Wade Davis’ $7 million option for 2015, the team is now committing approximately $15 million to two pitchers that throw one inning after Holland gets his salary raise in arbitration. It may not be the most popular move to the fans, but the Royals should explore trading Greg Holland while his value is at its peak. While they filled all of their holes through free agency, the team can still move Holland and inject some young, inexpensive talent into the system that can benefit them over the long-term.
The Royals can afford to do this after re-signing Luke Hochevar, who is coming off of Tommy John surgery, to a two-year deal earlier in the off-season. This is also another $4 million to a one inning reliever that the Royals have on their payroll, further vindicating the fact that they should explore moving one of them. While Tommy John recovery is far from automatic, Hochevar should be less of a concern because he is a reliever and will not be throwing as many innings. He could pitch the seventh, while Herrera and Davis get bumped up to the eighth and ninth, though all guys have “closer stuff.” Another guy to watch out of the Royals’ bullpen is Jandel Gustave, who was selected by the Red Sox in the rule five draft out of the Astros’ system and then traded to the Royals for cash. As a rule five selection, Gustave must stay on the Major League roster all season or else be sold back to his original team. The Dominican right hander has an electric arm, but erratic command. The Royals love power arms out of their bullpen, and Gustave could be another weapon if pitching coach Dave Eiland can help him iron out his command.
The Royals had this deal with Joakim Soria as well. They extended him rather than trade him to get prospects in return, and Soria ended up requiring a second Tommy John surgery. Some scouts feel that Holland’s mechanics also do not bode well for his long-term durability, which could potentially be red flag moving forward. He is also not going to get any cheaper, as he will only command more and more as he continues to get raises through the arbitration process and is a free agent after the 2016 season anyway.
Would it be easy to trade Holland, who has arguably become the best reliever in the game? No. But the Royals have plenty of other internal options to fill the closers’ role. They could also benefit both in the short and long-term by clearing approximately $9 million as well as importing more young players into the system that the team controls for the long haul. The Royals are definitely primed for another postseason run in 2015. They can, however, afford to part ways with one of their most valuable commodities and look toward the future while still having arguably the best bullpen in baseball.