KANSAS CITY -- The return of Royals reliever Greg Holland to Kansas City in 2020 couldn’t have gone much better.
Holland, 34, signed with the Royals as a free agent last offseason, hoping to resurrect his career -- one that gained national stardom in his first go-round with Kansas City. And Holland did just that, getting six saves and posting a 1.91 ERA in 2020 before a right oblique injury landed him on the injured list on Friday, ending his season.
The Royals also placed designated hitter Jorge Soler on the IL on Friday, ending his season, too. Kansas City activated right-hander Ian Kennedy, a pending free agent, from the IL, and recalled first baseman/designated hitter Ryan McBroom. Soler re-injured his right oblique on a one-handed double to right-center on Thursday.
“When Holly walked into the clubhouse for the very first day in Spring Training,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said, “he had a presence ...
“I don’t know how you can properly put value on what he did for us.”
Holland saved 145 games for the Royals from 2011-15 and was incredible in the '14 postseason, giving up just one run in 11 innings while posting seven saves.
Holland’s 2015 season might have been even more remarkable, considering he was pitching with a torn UCL. He finally had to shut his season down before the Royals’ World Series championship run. But before that, he saved 32 games with a 3.83 ERA while pitching in unimaginable pain.
After a year off recovering from Tommy John surgery in 2016, Holland’s free-agent journey took him through Colorado, St. Louis, Washington and Arizona before landing back in Kansas City.
No one was quite sure what to expect this season. But whatever those expectations were, Holland certainly exceeded them.
Holland proved he has plenty left in the tank after this season, too.
“When I was special assistant to [general manager Dayton Moore], I said there’s something we’re missing,” Matheny said. “It is that guy -- someone who has been there, has the experience and has the want-to to be that guy. And the want-to to be that guy to teach other guys. I didn’t know if [Holland} would turn out to be the guy to finish games. But here we are.”
While Holland doesn’t have the 96-98 mph heater anymore, his slider is still as effective as ever. He had a 9.8 strikeouts per nine innings in 2020.
What happens next?
Matheny would certainly love to have him back. He hopes there might be some loyalty involved, considering that Moore gave Holland a comeback chance when others wouldn’t.
Moore naturally isn’t going to make commitments about his offseason plan before the 2020 season is over. But the organization certainly can see what Holland means not only on the mound, but also as a mentor.
“Everything we hear about Greg,” Moore told MLB.com, “is that he has had a huge influence on some of our younger guys. You need that type of veteran leadership.”
Holland certainly was affordable this season, having signed a one-year, $1.25 million deal. His asking price will be much higher this time around.
But the Royals do have some things in their favor as a potential suitor: Holland bleeds Royal blue, and he has a solid relationship with Moore and Matheny, who managed him briefly in St. Louis.