Despite the impression you may have gotten from the NL Wild Card game, the Mets have a great bullpen. The team’s bullpen ERA of 3.53 was the third-best in the NL, save for that dreadful game 163.
And given the reality of post-Madoff life for the Mets, it’s safe to say the team won’t be breaking the bank on a big-name free agent this year. And even if they do, they’ll probably want to allocate most of their funds on more dire areas, like filling in Yoenis Cespedes‘ spot in the lineup. So don’t get your hopes up on Aroldis Chapman coming to Queens.
That being said, you can never have enough bullpen arms. And since the Mets probably won’t have a huge budget, they should go out and sign former Royals closer Greg Holland. Holland represents a reclamation project who has about as high a ceiling as a reliever can have.
The ex-Royal missed all of 2016 recovering from Tommy John surgery. He suffered the initial injury in September of his contract year– about as unfortunate a time possible. But from 2011-2014, Holland was one of the best closers in baseball. He ranked second among closers in ERA (1.86), seventh in saves (113), second in fWAR (9.1), and sixth in strikeouts per nine innings (12.57). Numbers for a reliever don’t get much better than this.
Holland started throwing in August and is expected to be ready to pitch in February.
Since he fell off a bit in 2015 with a 3.83 ERA, and since he’s coming off of an injury, Holland will likely cost any team that signs him no more than a one-year deal. This is someone who is a perfect fit for the Mets. No other one-year deal candidate has as high a ceiling as Holland does, maybe at any position but especially in the bullpen. This is a player the Mets should aggressively pursue.
The best-case scenario for Holland is that he returns to 2014 form. This would mean innings seven through nine would be anchored by a near-unhittable three-headed monster that features three pitchers who could be closers for most teams. The notion of the Mets having a bullpen that good probably seems unthinkable for those who lived through the Aaron Heilman/Frank Francisco/Jose Valverde days.
And the worst-case? He gets released midseason. That’s it. There likely won’t be a huge financial commitment here, so the Mets can do that. And Holland would probably be best suited in a one-year “prove it” deal for his sake too: If he does well, he might be able to sign a bigger deal elsewhere and recoup some of the money he could have earned last winter.
Sandy Alderson has bought in several reclamation projects that have worked out well: Marlon Byrd, Addison Reed, and even Jose Reyes have come to the team with little expectation and become key contributors. Greg Holland could be next.