Featured image courtesy of Zimbio.com (July 19, 2018 – Source: Jon Durr/Getty Images North America)
The Boston Red Sox approach the trade deadline needing a bullpen arm but lacking the resources to trade for one of the elite hurlers on the market. Because of this, Boston needs to make savvy, unconventional moves to improve the teams biggest weakness. St. Louis Cardinals reliever Greg Holland was recently released and is looking for a home with a contender. Given the Red Sox bullpen issues, should Boston look into acquiring Greg Holland?
Should the Red Sox sign Greg Holland?
Why was He Released?
The biggest red flag that comes along with Holland is figuring out why he was released. The Cardinals aren’t in contention for a World Series this season and were in a position to deal him if he had any value. Instead, they decided to designate him for assignment, losing the chance to obtain any return for his services.
Looking at his numbers, it’s clear to see that Holland didn’t have much value this year. Holland’s ERA currently sits at a disastrous 7.92 and his BB/9 is also 7.92. These horrific numbers combined with a one-year, $14 million dollar contract made Holland completely untradeable.
Why Should the Sox Be Interested?
However, there is hope for Holland. While his control has been disastrous, he’s actually been the victim of some serious bad luck. Batters have an unsustainably high .392 BABIP, a number which will surely drop as the season progresses. Additionally, Holland’s FIP currently sits at 4.56. While that’s still not a great number by any means, it’s considerably better than his 7.92 ERA. FIP tends to be a better indicator of future performance than ERA, so he should experience positive regression as the season goes on.
Additionally, Holland has been a much better pitcher than this as recently as last year. In 2017, Holland led the National League in saves with 41. While saves aren’t a highly subjective stat, his underlying numbers back the fact that he had a solid season. He finished the year with a 3.61 ERA, 3.72 FIP, and a 10.99 K/9. While these aren’t elite numbers, they’re still reflective of a solid reliever.
Throughout his career, Holland has pitched closer to his 2017 form than his 2018 form. Were the Red Sox to sign him, they’d probably be getting an improved version for the remainder of the season. While he wouldn’t be the eighth inning bridge the Red Sox need, he could be a solid early-inning arm.
Shouldn’t the Sox Shoot for Better?
However, shouldn’t the Red Sox aim higher than Holland? If the Red Sox really want to take the next step, shouldn’t they try for a guy like Kelvin Herrera, Kirby Yates, Sergio Romo, or any of the other arms on the market?
The answer is obviously yes, but the Red Sox might not be able to obtain a top arm like that. Thanks to Dave Dombrowski’s (mostly good) trades along with his (very bad) inability to restock the farm system, the Red Sox don’t have many assets to sell at the deadline. Unless they give up what little they have left, they’ll need to go the cheap route to shore up the bullpen.
While it’s not an ideal strategy, going cheap is the course the Red Sox should take. As it is, they’re the only farm system in baseball without a top-100 prospect. Boston needs to start building from within and sending away what little they have now is a recipe for disaster down the road.
This current bullpen isn’t great by any means, but it’s better than people give it credit for. Everyone knows Craig Kimbrel is amazing, and the pieces behind him aren’t bad, either. Joe Kelly won’t stay this bad forever, Matt Barnes is having a good season, and Tyler Thornburg is starting to look like the guy from 2016. After early struggles, Alex Cora and the Red Sox reportedly tweaked Thornburg’s mechanics. Thornburg has yet to allow a hit since the mechanics tweak.
Even the depth is good. Ryan Brasier has been fantastic since arriving in the majors, Hector Velazquez has been a great long arm all season, and Brandon Workman and Bobby Poyner have shown they belong in the majors, even though they’re currently in Pawtucket. An added arm would be nice, but this bullpen can certainly live without one.
Unfiltered Thoughts on Greg Holland
While Greg Holland isn’t the fix the Boston Red Sox fans want, he’s probably the best the Sox can get. Holland’s $14 million dollar contract is completely guaranteed by the Cardinals, so the Sox would only need to pay the veteran minimum to acquire him.
The Red Sox could use another bullpen arm, but it doesn’t need to be an elite setup man. Holland has the ability to serve as another middle relief arm, and his ceiling is high enough to be a decent bridge guy. However, the Sox should still look to pursue someone even if they do sign Holland. There’s no such thing as too many good bullpen arms, and if the Sox can get an elite reliever at a good cost, they absolutely should. However, don’t expect that to happen.