Pirates Have Talked With LHP Derek Holland

The Pittsburgh Pirates are one of the teams that have talked with Derek Holland, according to Bill Brink of the Post-Gazette.

Previously we heard that Holland was open to signing with the Pirates, which would make sense, as it wouldn’t make sense for him to limit his options. This news is more significant, as it shows the interest goes both directions.

Holland doesn’t look like the typical Pirates reclamation project, instead looking like last year’s low-upside version. He had some good seasons in 2011 and 2013, putting up a 3.0 and 4.3 fWAR, respectively. However, he’s a much different pitcher now than he was then, after a series of injuries derailed his career.

Holland’s best year was 2013, when he pitched 213 innings, with a 3.42 ERA and a 3.68 xFIP. He had a 7.99 K/9 and his average fastball was 93.6 MPH. He has since missed time with left knee surgery, and left shoulder issues over the last two years. Last year, his velocity was down to an average of 91.7 MPH, and his strikeout rate was at 5.62 K/9. Both numbers have seen a steady decline since the 2013 season, with the velocity dropping over a full MPH from 2015 to 2016. Holland also has never really been a ground ball pitcher, with a 42.3% rate in his career, and dropping to 38.3% last year. This is all despite the fact that he primarily throws a sinker.

The Pirates have been most successful with guys who get strikeouts, ground balls, have velocity, but also have control problems. They’ve taken some guys derailed by injuries and fixed them, but in those cases, the injuries led to poor mechanics which caused poor control. By fixing the mechanics, they were able to fix the control, which was the one issue. That’s a lot easier than finding two miles per hour of velocity, or adding over two strikeouts per nine innings to a guy with shoulder issues. And most of the reclamation guys played into the defensive shifts and the preference for strong infield defenders with their high ground ball rates, which Holland wouldn’t be able to take advantage of.

Going with a reclamation project isn’t a bad thing, but it would be best if the Pirates went for a higher upside guy. On paper, you could look at that 4.3 fWAR and say that Holland has some upside. But if you dig deeper into his issues and where he’s currently at in his career, you’d see that it would be a stretch to assume he could get back to that former production. Holland isn’t the type of reclamation project the Pirates should be pursuing, unless they’re going for multiple pitchers and he’s not the primary target.

  • As much as Jeff Locke drives me nuts when he pitches, at least it appears that he has decent stuff when he manages to stay ahead of the hitters and throws strikes … rather than throwing fat ones down the middle of the plate when he falls behind. Maybe (just maybe) he got a wake up call this year when they moved him to the bullpen. I just can’t see bringing in an older guy from another organization who had modest success back in 2014 and hoping for a miracle in 2017.

    Have a “come to Jesus” discussion with Locke about staying ahead in the count, trusting his stuff and not nibbling at the strike zone all the time. Send him out there as your #5 starter to begin the season (gulp) and then cut bait after 6 weeks if he’s the same old guy. It’s risky but not much more risky than Volquez or Holland in my opinion.

  • I heard neil blowbag Huntington this evening he threw a new term defecit salary he said it at least times it has replaced reallocating salary. Hey Neil show the public the cba agreement that you kept referring to.

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD
    November 16, 2016 7:24 pm

    I’d pass…I like our young starters better

  • Please no Holland. He’s Jeff Locke 2.0. I can’t see him making any more of an impact than the triple a guys. Give me Eddie back and Cashner. I think Cashner could be great out of the bullpen, although he probably wants to start

  • I wonder if Holland is in that third year after surgery period when he could make the complete bounce-back. If so great, otherwise i think we need to really be careful.

    Two of the best bounce-backs on the market may be Locke and Hughes and their arb deals might be cheaper than likewise options. STOP LAUGHING!!

    • I liked your last 2 words!

    • I’d rather just let Brault or Williams start before Locke, but you’re not terribly wrong…in this market, he may very well be a reasonable value, if not still generally bad at pitching.

  • I’m hoping this was meant to read Greg Holland as opposed to Derek

  • The Pirates play in a large ballpark that keeps long flies in the park so why is it so important that they sign a groundball pitcher?

  • I wouldnt mind holland as their secondary pickup, would certainly be disappointed if he was their only guy though. Even with the injury history and lack of recent production he still has one very key element to his game that is sorely lacking in the pirates’ rotation, he throws with his left hand.

  • If that’s the case keep Locke.

    • No, no, no, no, no, Locke is terrible, I get where you’re coming from in the sense that they should keep the players they have because acquiring guys will cost too much but Locke is just way to inconsistent and just plain bad.

  • It’s becoming more and more obvious that the Pirates found and exploited an inefficiency in the market that has now been normalized.

    What if the upside guys, the ones who get strikeouts and are just a mechanical tweak away, are no longer the types that the Pirates will compete to sign?

    • Those guys are still out there, whether it’s through free agency or a trade. It was only about three months ago that they acquired Ivan Nova. And I wouldn’t say that they won’t compete to sign the free agents based on one year.

      • Based on one year?!

        Oh, Tim.

        • Do I really need to list all of the free agents they signed prior to the 2016 season to show that 2016 was the outlier and they signed good pitchers or high upside pitchers every other year?

          2015 was Liriano and Burnett. They also traded for Happ at the deadline.
          2014 was Volquez.
          2013 was Liriano.
          2012 they traded for Burnett.

          With the exception of the deadline in 2016, that year was an outlier. I don’t think it represents a trend. And I think you can go through their recent history and see Pirates fans incorrectly assuming trends based off one example.

          Remember when they would never issue a qualifying offer because they didn’t give one to Burnett, and then they gave two out to Martin and Liriano the next year? My opinion is that it’s best to look at everything as individual circumstances, rather than trying to take those individual examples and apply a trend. If there’s an actual trend, with multiple examples pointing to the same thing, then it makes sense to go with the theory of a trend. But there’s nothing that shows the Pirates are shut out from high upside pitchers.

          • Tim, you have to be able to see that the market has changed. Literally everyone else, including Neal Huntington, has acknowledged this fact.

            What they did with Liriano in 2013 and Volquez in 2014 has almost no bearing on the current free agent market. Those deals have long been surpassed. They’re meaningless.

            In 2015, Burnett famously took a fraction of market value and Liriano was depressed by the QO, and since it apparently still has to be said, even his depressed contract was too much for the Pirates to see to completion.

            If they will not compete for a guy like Rich Hill, allowing the A’s to beat them for half a million bucks, you have to genuinely consider if their prototypical upside reclamation arm is a reality any longer.

            • “even his depressed contract was too much for the Pirates to see to completion.*”

              *When he was pitching as a replacement level player.

              If he was pitching like he was in 2013-2015, he’d still be on the team, and they’d be paying the third year of that deal.

              The Rich Hill example is what I’m talking about. They get outbid on one player in one year, and suddenly there’s a trend. Maybe they just didn’t get that one free agent. Also, it’s hard to say the market has changed when Hill got $6 M in the same year that Colon got $7.25 M, and Mike Pelfrey got 2/$16 M.

              • This has just become odd…

                Now the market hasn’t changed? After an entire year talking about how few options the Pirates had available to them? After Huntington himself admitted it has?

                • To be clear, what exactly do you mean by the market changing?

                  Are you saying that this free agent market in 2017 is weak on pitching? Or are you saying that the Pirates can no longer get good reclamation projects?

                  • The pitching market for arms you described above.

                    The Burnett/Liriano/Volquez type of reclamation arms the Pirates successfully turned around in the past simply no longer come at the prices they’ve been willing to send on them. They just don’t. Again, this is precisely what Huntington has referenced in speaking of how they need to adapt to fit the changing market.

                    Either get comfortable spending much more money on these type of arms, or beat the market to another inefficiency.

                  • Tim,

                    You remember after Liriano trade how you said it was only fair to wait and see what they did with the money they avoided paying Frank… and many of us told you 13M wasn’t gonna buy them sh*t this offseason? Kicking the tires on guys like Derek Holland is exactly what I had in mind.

                    The reality is whatever they are able to get for 1 year near 13 AAV is going to carry just as much risk as Liriano and probably less upside.

                    But hey they signed David Freese with a near 30% K rate so that’s a win.

                    • I don’t remember where I said “wait and see, and then let’s call the off-season over on November 16th after the first pitching rumor comes out”.

                    • So you think the Pirates are likely to spend that 13M and bring in a pitcher who meets or exceeds Liriano’s 2017 production?

                    • I think it’s November 16th, and this off-season is shaping up to be unpredictable with so many different ways the Pirates could go to built the 2017 team. So let’s see what they end up with at the end of all of it, rather than playing a guessing game.

            • Let me try to help here…2016 had Rich Hill sign for $6M. I don’t know that they weren’t or aren’t out there…we just didn’t do a good job of finding/acquiring them

              • There will always be *some* pitchers that perform better than expected. I’m certainly not saying that. Jeremy Helickson was had for next to nothing. Bud Norris turned out to be well worth $3m.

                But how can anyone argue that finding one of the literal handful of those arms every year is in any way sustainable? How is that a key manner in which you build a baseball team?

                Again, this isn’t 2012 or 2013 or 2014. The game is flooded with money, and teams have caught on to the whole strikeouts and groundballs thing. Those arms no longer come cheap, by Pirate standards.

          • you forgot eric bedard

      • I haven’t looked closely at the list of guys out there.
        Who do you like out of free agent pitchers?

        • I like Cashner and Volquez for reclamation projects. Nova would be good if they want more of a “sure thing”. And I think a trade would make sense, but I don’t know all of the options available on the trade market, or what the asking price would be for the top guys (Archer, Sale).

          • I think you almost have to get both of them.

          • At this point in their respective careers do you consider tim lincecum or if hes able to be talked out of retirement, cliff lee, to be high upside reclamations? With payroll constraints the front office has to continually be thinking outside the box, though I admit the box is so far away it’s almost out of sight with those two.

          • As far as Holland goes, are we absolutely sure he fits in the low-upside category a la Niese? As I recall, tweeks to Happ and Nova were more in the realm of pitch selection and mentality ( pounding the strike zone) as compared to fixing control issues like Liriano/Volquez/Burnett. Is there anything to suggest Holland might have anything to suggest he could fit in the Happ/Nova category? And is it impossible that a mechanical tweak could show a velocity recovery?

            • There were some mechanical adjustments in play with both of those pitchers, as we reported each year. The pitch selection/mentality existed with Liriano/Volquez/Burnett.

              The issue with Holland is that his velocity and strikeouts are way down from when he had his best years. None of the other pitchers you mentioned had that combination of problems.

              • We bought into a pitcher last year, Niece, that had the same velocity problem. I thought that was bad news then and haven’t changed my mind.

          • I think NH spends the Pirates money smartly, but to step up in their own division, they need a payroll north of $100k. The Cubs payroll was $165k with 5-6 on their roster making minimum. I know the Buccos can’t just throw money around (read my first sentence) but they have to increase their payroll. The Reds and Brewers are going young and will have an opportunity to get into a few Free Agents(by the way, they’re not free.) If this doesn’t happen, you can look forward to a good ballclub with a very small chance of ever being in the World Series. Just my thoughts.

  • Speaking of back end (rear end?) starters, Charlie Morton just signed for 2 yrs/ $14 mil with the Astros.

  • I approve this message. 🙂

    I’d rather not go ‘into’ the Holland Tunnel

  • Pirates FO when they heard that Holland was interested