NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – Why would the Cubs give up young talent to get Wade Davis when they could just sign the other closer who helped transform the Kansas City Royals into World Series champions?
That question frames how the Cubs are looking at their closer situation during the winter meetings, with industry sources saying Greg Holland remains a free-agent target and on track to be ready for Opening Day 2017.
At that point, Holland will be 18 months out from Tommy John surgery, an injury that allowed Davis to take over as closer during Kansas City’s playoff run in 2015. Davis maximized that opportunity, putting up a 0.00 ERA and 18 strikeouts in 10.2 postseason innings. Davis earned his second All-Star selection this year while Holland rehabbed his right elbow.
But the Royals can see their window to contend closing, with Davis, first baseman Eric Hosmer, third baseman Mike Moustakas, shortstop Alcides Escobar, outfielders Lorenzo Cain and Jarrod Dyson and left-hander Danny Duffy all positioned to become free agents after the 2017 season.
Holland had been a big part of that core, a homegrown Royal who saved 145 games between 2011 and 2015, made two All-Star teams and showed up twice in the American League MVP voting.
When Kansas City made it all the way to Game 7 of the 2014 World Series, Holland notched seven saves and posted a 0.82 ERA during those four playoff rounds.
[SHOP CUBS: Get your World Series champions gear right here]
The Boston Red Sox are no longer in the mix for Holland, a team source said after filling that late-inning need with Tuesday’s Tyler Thornburg trade with the Milwaukee Brewers, a deal that got blown away by the Chris Sale blockbuster.
Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer predicted the White Sox would be the Chicago team making the big headlines here at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center outside Washington, D.C., downplaying the possibility of making a huge splash.
The Cubs have checked in with Kenley Jansen’s camp, industry sources said, and signaled that they have no interest in bringing back Aroldis Chapman. The Los Angeles Dodgers – and essentially all of the teams involved in the Jansen/Chapman discussions – are also particularly intrigued by Holland, according to Jon Heyman of MLB Network and FanRag Sports.
The San Francisco Giants already handed Mark Melancon the biggest contract ever for a closer, though Jansen and Chapman could both get deals longer than four years and will shatter that $62 million record.
If Davis will cost, say, Jorge Soler plus $10 million in salary, then the Cubs could decide to invest in Holland’s upside and use the Cuban outfielder in a different trade for pitching.
Hector Rondon and Pedro Strop almost disappeared during the playoffs, but the Cubs think that can be largely written off as late-season injuries and issues of timing and sharpness. The Cubs believe in Carl Edwards Jr., but still had to carefully manage his innings and appearances during his rookie season.
Whether or not Holland is the ultimate answer, the Cubs plan to give manager Joe Maddon some shiny new toys for the bullpen.