It’s 2016 – Holland’s Last Stand?
It’s 2016. The Texas Rangers are coming off of a season that saw them defy some incredible odds (although not nearly as terrible as the year prior) to win the American League West crown.
It’s 2016. Josh Hamilton, the hero of 2010, potential hero of 2011, and Das Wünderkind of the first half of 2012 before turning into modern-day, very bad, headed to the Angels Josh, costs the Texas Rangers zero dollars and zero cents. For all intents and purposes, it looks like he will be contributing his worth this season, as it was announced early Wednesday morning that he would miss most of, if not all of, the first month of the season after receiving stem cell injections in his left knee.
It’s 2016. Yu Darvish missed all of last season because of Tommy John surgery. The Rangers’ ace gets to come back around mid-May…except he doesn’t have to be the ace. Cole Hamels is a co-ace on this staff. He also will be fresh off of a wonderful first off-season in seven years when he didn’t have to go into the next season wondering if either his team was going to be any good or if he was going to be traded. It will be his first full season with the Texas Rangers, for whom he pitched the deciding final game of the season in 2015.
It’s 2016. It could be Derek Holland‘s last year in a Texas Rangers’ uniform.
Holland signed a five-year extension with the team after the 2011 season, after his unbelievable performance in Game 4 of the World Series. Five years puts 2016 as the last guaranteed year with Texas. The contract also has two option years for 2017 and 2018. Team options.
What exactly does that mean?
For a 29-year-old, left-handed pitcher with a ceiling as high as a second-tier ace pitcher, it means that all of the talk of maturing and growing up and fulfilling potential that has happened for the last three years finally has to come to fruition.
It was 2012. Holland went 12-7 with a 4.67 ERA and only threw 175.1 innings. Not exactly what the Rangers were expecting. Still, maybe it was the pressure of the new contract, that whole year was a bit of a mess towards the end anyways, and he was still just 25 – plenty of room to grow.
It was 2013. Holland went 10-9 (throw the meaning of wins out the window), with a 3.42 ERA in a career-high 213 innings, cutting down his home runs allowed by twelve and striking out a career high 189 batters. All things considered, despite the four complete game shutouts in 2011 and lower win total, 2013 was Derek Holland’s best year. That was encouraging.
It was 2014. Derek Holland tripped over his dog, Wrigley, on the steps of his house. He missed all but September with a knee injury. When he came back, though, it was with a vengeance. The team hadn’t rushed his return because the season was lost. Holland still had a point to prove, so he went 2-0 over five starts with a 1.46 ERA. He was on fire and the expectation was that he would carry that into 2015.
It was 2015. Holland threw one inning and strained his subscapularis muscle. He didn’t return until August. This time, he was brought back sooner, because the Rangers were most certainly in the thick of things. The results were fantastic to start, including an incredibly impressive complete game shutout of Baltimore. After that particular game, however, everything went average. He went eight innings and won his next start against the Angels, but then gave up 24 runs on 36 hits over his next five starts. That was a decided step backwards.
Holland hasn’t been completely healthy for the last two years, and now he suddenly finds himself on the door step of potential free agency. If the team decides to exercise the option for next year, he will be owed $11 million. For the season after that, $11.5 million. Depending on his performance this year, the Rangers could just pay him $1.5 million and put him out into the open market, utilizing that extra $9.5 million elsewhere in the thin 2016 free agent market.
Trading might be an option, but if Holland is pitching well enough to be of value to someone else, it makes more sense, with the Rangers lack of proven commodities, to keep the Dutch Oven in Texas. If he’s not pitching well enough, then he won’t be attractive enough to other clubs…but the bullpen is still a possibility. Holland has experience in the pen and the stuff to be another high leverage power arm. If he’s not pitching well enough, then I expect the check from the Rangers to Holland for 2017 will be absent one “1.”
Do I want this to happen? Absolutely not. I am a Derek Holland fan. I want Holland to be one of those Ranger-lifers. I want his best performances to be in a Rangers uniform. I want Holland to be that “X-Factor” that everyone has to analyze during the playoffs.
Mostly, however, I want to look back on 2016-2018 Derek Holland and say, “I knew he had it in him, all along.”
It’s 2016. Is it Derek Holland’s last year as a Ranger?