The St. Louis Cardinals blew a lot of games late in 2017, costing them playoff entrance flexibility and causing other relievers to reassert their roles on the team and crumble under the weight. Right now, soon to be free agent closer Greg Holland looks like a tasty steak to the Redbirds.
But he could also be a chewy one as well.
Holland declined a $15 million option from the Colorado Rockies, and for good reason. He enjoyed a comeback season after missing all of 2016 following a subpar 2015. In 2017, Holland saved 41 games in 45 opportunities with a 1.15 WHIP and 70 strikeouts in 57.1 innings pitched. He was the Kansas City Royals door slammer from 2011-14, helping them reach back to back World Series and winning one.
Holland has four straight seasons of 30 saves or more, which is a fine security blanket to settle under when considering bringing him back to Missouri for the 2018 season. He's good at his job, but how much longer will he be elite and is he worth the contract that awaits him?
Those questions stem from a pair of warning signs for the Cardinals. Simple ones:
*Holland will turn 32 years old on November 20th, which is old in closer years no matter how many seasons missed to injury.
*He is represented by mega agent Scott Boras, the guy who compiles binders on each of his clients, comparing them to famous painters and philosophers. Boras knows what Holland can do and will get him a rich deal. After all, it was Boras who told him to decline that 15 million dollar parachute from Colorado.
Do the Cardinals really want to hand a 32 year old pitcher a contract that should reach 3-4 years? They already forked out big dollars for Brett Cecil to fail at a variety of roles in 2017. What would it say if Holland has a setback season and there's over 20 million dollars tied up between two relievers? Bad practice.
The Cardinals should steer clear of guys like Holland and Wade Davis, great closers with questionable arms and aging bodies. They should bring back Juan Nicasio, a fireballer who sealed the crack in the Cardinals ninth inning wall last month. Converted from starter to reliever by the Pittsburgh Pirates, Nicasio has a live arm and won't cost Holland money.
Retain Nicasio and see where Trevor Rosenthal sits towards the end of next season. When healthy, Rosenthal is just as good as Holland or Davis, and younger too. If you want to throw multiple years at a closer, go with youth. Or just wait and see. Boras also represents Rosenthal, but if the Cards do lock down a closer for over two years, once again you go with youth.
Or, you let Rosenthal walk in 2019 and stick with Nicasio or one of the young starters you won't be using.
The Cardinals have bigger needs in the lineup and rotation than the requirement to bring in a 32-year-old closer with inconsistencies over his past few seasons.
Whatever the future holds for Rosenthal, I don't think the juice is worth the squeeze for a long term contract with a 32-year-old closer. At 32 years of age and coming off a great season, Holland will want to cash in, and should.
I don't think the Cardinals should be the team that bites Boras' fishing line.