“I’d say the Pirates are on our short list,” says Holland’s agent, Michael Martini. “We’d prefer a guaranteed spot, but Derek is not afraid to compete for a job … We’ll see how the market develops, but we would be open to a one-year deal.”
The Pirates have not yet touched base or expressed interest, but it’s early in the offseason. We know all about the Pirates’ reputation as Pitcher Whisperers. Players talk. Agents are aware of the Pirates’ ability to help reform pitchers. But should the Pirates be interested in Holland?
Holland’s strikeout rate was a career low 5.6 per nine innings last season.
The Dutch Oven saw his velocity fall to a career low (91.7 mph average fastball vs. 93.1 for his career). Once one of the hardest-throwing lefties in the game, Holland dealt with injuries in 2014 and 2015.
While he has never been a ground-ball pitcher (42.3 percent ground-ball rate), Holland’s ground-ball rate fell to a career-low 38 percent last season.
Moreover, Holland has never had a swing-and-miss breaking ball – a middling 8.4 percent whiff rate for his career – and that fell to 7.9 last season.
So in summary, despite his past success and his left-handedness, this is a player who has not only lost stuff and dealt with injury, but he also doesn’t fit the Pirates’ ideal reclamation model. Even when healthy, this is not the Pirates’ ideal arm.
When you think about Francisco Liriano, A.J. Burnett and Edinson Volquez these are pitchers who had plus velocity and who had a swing-and-miss pitch (Liriano’s slider and changuep, Burnett’s curveball and Volquez’s changeup). Each had also shown the history of above average ground-ball rates.
The common thread was their wayward command. As we know, the Jim Benedict-Ray Searage team did an excellent job of ameliorating those command issues.
The Pirates got away from their preferred model last year in signing some fly-ball pitchers. Jon Niese didn’t produce ground-balls like he had in the past and Niese, their greatest financial commitment made to a pitcher acquired last offseason, didn’t have the velocity or swing-and-miss stuff of previous targets.
The Pirates would do well to try to get back to their preferred model. And Holland probably isn’t the preferred model. Neither is another popular pick, Andrew Cashner, who lacks swing-and-miss stuff.
Brett Anderson better fits the mold, but he has trouble staying on the mound. Ivan Nova better fits the mold but he’s probably going to get three or four years guaranteed.
We know the market is tough for free agent startng pitchers this winter, perhaps that buy-low target can be better found in a trade. We know the Pirates are going to mostly be a younger, homegrown staff next year but the club would still benefit from a veteran presence. And the Pirates would do well to acquire one, and get back to their model.
THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS ON THE QO AND ‘CUTCH …
>>Today marks the deadline for players to accept qualifying offers. FOXSports reporter extraordinaire Ken Rosenthal opines the qualifying offer – which is set at $17.2 million this year – should go. Rosenthal has some ideas how to fix the system.
Rosenthal argues the QO is unfair to teams, namely small-market ones as the QO takes up a much larger percentage of payroll. (The Pirates did not extend a QO to Burnett after the 2013 season out of fear he would accept it… the last player they extended it to was Russell Martin. The club probably wouldn’t have extended it to Mark Melancon, I suspect) It also hurts the market for players who are attached to draft-pick compensation in the form of the signing team losing a first- or second-round pick. It will be interesting to see what happens with the on-going CBA talks.
FWIW, Melancon is not eligible to be tagged with the QO since he was traded mid-season and did not spend a full year with the Nationals.
>>Of course, as Rosenthal also notes, there are bigger fish to fry in the CBA talks: the luxury tax, revenue sharing and international draft. I’ve been arguing what the players should really fight for is a salary-spending floor for owners but that doesn’t appear to be on the radar.
>>Pirates GM Neal Huntington told the Associated Press at the GM meetings last week teams are calling on Andrew McCutchen and the Pirates are apparently listening:
“They recognize that we haven’t been averse to moving guys as their contract nears expiration. It’s a part of how we believe we need to do things to continue to be competitive and continue to give ourselves a shot to win.”
On the surface this seems to be a change in public position when Huntington suggested McCutchen was to be part of the club’s future back in the summer.
>>If there is a McCutchen trade, it could be nearer the summer’s trade deadline than this offseason. By waiting, the Pirates could perhaps better maximize value. After all, McCutchen could get off to a better offensive start, and a change in defensive positioning (i.e. playing deeper) could perhaps lessen his defensive liabilities.
Moreover, noted Huntington: “In other deals that we’ve done, we’ve ended up getting as much, if not more, around the trade deadline that we would have in the prior offseason because at the trade deadline there (are) few players available. There’s more angst about competing.”
THEY SAID IT
Players react to the presidential election …
Don’t worry, this is a politics-free zone. But I would say many, if not the majority, of US-born players trend conservative as many are from warm-weather states, particularly across the Southeast. There would have been some interesting discussions in clubhouses had the election happened in midseason. Best for clubhouse unity that it did not.
STAT OF THE WEEK: 12.5 million
Dollars the 43-year-old Bartolo Colon will earn this year to pitch for the Atlanta Braves.
Yeah, it’s a good time to throw baseballs to make a living. But what are the Braves doing? Apparently trying to soak up some innings, but why pay eight figures for an innings eater? Colon is not the addition that’s going to sell tickets for the club’s new stadium.