A rumor! A real, honest, reliable rumor! It’s like the first brown, falling leaf of the season. Marvel at it. Press it and keep it in a scrapbook as a reminder of this horrid, torpid part of the year.
It’s a good rumor, though. From Andrew Baggarly:
Giants GM Bobby Evans confirmed that the club will have representatives present in the next few days when free agent and former Kansas City Royals closer Greg Holland holds a showcase to demonstrate his health following Tommy John surgery in October, 2015.
It’s an obvious rumor, too, and I mean that in the best possible way. Consider the dream of every team after this postseason, which is an Andrew Miller of their very own. The real version isn’t going anywhere, but focusing on just one super-reliever kind of misses the point. It wasn’t just Miller who got the limping Indians within an inning of a championship; Cody Allen was just as important.
So while the Giants will hopefully be active on the Mark Melancon and Kenley Jansen market, there’s a small, unrealistic part of me that wants both of them. That’s how to build a not-so-secret postseason weapon. Have one guy who can lock down the ninth inning (and eighth, too, if it’s October), and have one guy who can float around and be an automatic face card to slip in whatever hand you’re dealt. So spend $180 million to get both Jansen and Melancon, and enjoy them for as long as they’re effective.
Which could be a few years. Or two years.
Really, they’re still pitchers. No guarantees.
Fine, so the strategy* isn’t practical. There’s a chance the Giants might not even convince one of those guys to sign, much less two. But let’s say the Giants are enamored of either one, and they intend to put all of their efforts into signing one of them. Is there a way realistic way to get another super-reliever?
*I call it the Get Jansen and Melancon, Then You’re Dancin™ strategy, please credit McCovey Chronicles when using.
Develop one. That’s the easiest way. It’s how the Indians got Allen. And hopefully, the Giants turn someone like Ray Black or Reyes Moronta into something they can rely on. It’s just nothing they can count on this year, and it’s not even close.
So the most practical hope, then, would be a super-reliever in the bargain bin for some reason, a fixer upper. The problem with that strategy is that a pitcher who fits that description in the exact offseason he’s needed is something of a unicorn. One can’t ever assume a reliever fitting that description exists and will be available.
That would be Holland this year, and it’s something of a coup that he’s even available. He was one of the very best relievers as recently as 2014 (striking out more than 13 batters every nine innings) and someone potentially as dominant as anyone else the Giants could possibly acquire.
I wonder if there’s an inning that shows off that dominance ...
The trick is that a) every team gonna want him, too, and b) he’s not coming over on a minor-league deal. Holland will still be expensive, even if less expensive than the typical elite closer. The Giants will have to love what they see at his showcase, and even then, they might be scared away at the financial guarantees he’s looking for.
There’s also a chance that the Giants are hoping they’ll be impressed enough with Holland to make him the entire bullpen solution of the offseason, and pass the savings onto the rest of their hot stove endeavors. That’s possible, and depending on who else they can acquire, maybe even practical.
But my beautiful, unrealistic wish of the offseason — make Hunter Strickland the fourth-best right-handed reliever out of the bullpen — would be a lot more realistic with a healthy, lower-cost Holland. That’s not a slight on Strickland, either. It would be a sign of tremendous depth to have him be a sixth/seventh-inning guy. The team’s most obvious weakness would become a strength. That’s hard to do in a single offseason, and yet it’s possible somehow.
The analogy would be the Giants’ search for starting pitchers last offseason. They obviously needed starters, and they happened to luck into a free agent market with more than a dozen options. A year later, the rotation is almost certainly the best part of the roster, and now they need to fix the other stuff.
This just happens to be a pretty good market to fix a bullpen with money and brute force, and Holland makes that easier. If he’s healthy. If he’s interested in coming to San Francisco. If the Giants are interested after watching him pitch for the first time in more than a year. There are a lot of ifs.
It’s a fun rumor, though! And it makes all kinds of sense. The Giants could get Holland and then keep trying to transform the bullpen. He’s the only pitcher with super-reliever potential who would allow them to do that, so hopefully everyone likes what they see.