By Jason Shetler
The Pirates had themselves a solid bullpen during the three seasons they went to the playoffs in 2013, 2014 and 2015. While you could argue that the rotation wasn’t impressive in 2016, the bullpen didn’t perform consistently either. The Pirates will certainly have to address that area this offseason with Neftali Feliz becoming a free agent and Jared Hughes likely to be non-tendered. Looking at some of the relievers on the free agent market this offseason, Greg Holland is one reliever who the Pirates should try to sign.
Holland had been a fixture in the Kansas City Royals bullpen since the 2011 season. He eventually took over as their closer, and was an elite level performer. In 2013 and 2014, Holland was arguably the best closer in the American League, as he combined to post a 1.33 ERA along with a 0.89 WHIP and 93 saves in 97 opportunities.
After helping lead the Royals to the World Series in 2014, Holland was hoping to help out again last year, but that never happened, as he tore his right ulnar collateral ligament, and had to undergo Tommy John surgery in October. As expected, he missed the entire 2016 season.
As Holland enters free agency this offseason, he should be fully recovered from the surgery. The Pirates back end of the bullpen is currently left-handed heavy with Tony Watson, Antonio Bastardo and Felipe Rivero. As mentioned, Neftali Feliz will be a free agent, so they would need to add a right-handed reliever to use in late innings. Because Holland missed an entire year, it’s likely that he won’t be given a big multi-year contract, which might work in the Pirates favor. Perhaps they could persuade Holland to sign by offering him the closers job in 2017. While it may seem risky to sign a reliever who just recovered from elbow surgery, I think Holland’s career track record is something the Pirates should roll the dice on.