Next year, the Kansas City Royals could potentially have eight relievers for their bullpen without signing any free agents. These relievers are Greg Holland, Kelvin Herrera, Louis Coleman, Will Smith, Luke Hochevar, Tim Collins, Aaron Crow and Donnie Joseph. Maybe you take out Hochevar or put in a player like Michael Mariot, who has strong peripherals in Omaha. Either way, the Royals have an abundance of bullpen depth at their disposal. Of course, the Royals are currently running with a seven man bullpen due to their Rotation’s knack for eating innings. As of this writing, the Royals bullpen has tossed the fewest innings in all of baseball with 222 through 83 games. Over the course of last season, Royals relievers tossed 561 1/3 innings, which led the majors and was 127 innings more than the next highest team. Given that the Royals have incredible depth in their bullpen, it makes sense that they’d utilize this depth both on the field and in trades. This is why the move the Royals should make right now is to trade Greg Holland.
Currently, Holland leads all major league relievers in K% at 42.4%. If this held up over the season, it would be the seventh highest percentage in Major league history. To further add to his value, Holland has three years of club control after this one. If the Royals trade Holland, they would potentially give up a lot, but this is actually why Kansas City should consider trading Holland. It’s not often that you see a proven commodity like Holland traded with so much time left before free agency, but his historic performance almost assures that this will be the high point of his career. So, the Royals should sell high on a guy with a ton of value and address an area of need.
What kind of return could the Royals get back for Holland? The Orioles got Chris Davis and Tommy Hunter for half a season of Koji Uehara. This isn’t the fairest example because no one could have foreseen what Davis would do this season, but it shows how teams will pay a lot to get good relief. The same year that the Rangers traded for Uehara, they also gave up two good pitching prospects for the Mike Adams. The Rangers gave up Joe Wieland, who was dominating AA ball as a 21 year old starter, and Robbie Erlin, who was also a good AA starting pitcher as a 20 year old. Of course, Holland has much more value than either of those two relievers. So, what kind of return could we expect? Let’s look at potential trade targets.
The Nationals are currently running with Rafael Soriano as their closer. Soriano is decent, but the Nationals don’t have much depth after that. Tyler Clippard‘s stats look good on the surface, but he’s due for some serious regression due to his GB% under 20%. Brian Goodwin would fill a need for the Royals as he has above average speed and can steal bases, but KC would (should) probably ask for more. The Nationals have a couple interesting pitchers in their system that could fill out this potential trade.
The Diamondbacks have a couple of very good starting pitching prospects in Tyler Skaggs and Archie Bradley. Both of these pitchers have the potential to be #1 starters, and you don’t see starting pitchers with that potential moved very often, but now is a good time to remind everyone that Mike Montgomery was once a top prospect. I’m not saying that the Royals should trade Holland for Mike Montgomery, but a player like Holland would help a win now team in Arizona, while the Royals could get a potential #1 starter with lots of cheap team control. Trades are a risk/reward ordeal and relievers aren’t exactly the most stable commodities. A Skaggs/Holland trade or Skaggs/Bradley trade would be risky for both teams, but could be the kind of trade that works out well for both teams.
Speaking of win now teams, the Royals best trade partner may come from within the division. It may seem crazy, but the Tigers have the exact player the Royals need in Nick Castellanos. Castellanos was the Futures game MVP last year and the #21 prospect coming into the season, so he’s definitely a player who has a lot of value. His first pro position was third base, but he was shifted to right field after the Tigers signed Prince Fielder. He’s still raw in right field, but is gradually learning the position. If the Royals acquired Castellanos, they could stash him in Omaha while giving David Lough a chance to prove the he can play. The Royals can call up Castellanos if Lough doesn’t perform, and they’ll have a good problem if Lough creates an outfield logjam. The trade would make sense for the Royals and it would also make sense for the Tigers. Detroit’s bullpen troubles are well documented and their window is starting to close as their batters age and Miguel Cabrera‘s free agency looms. After Jose Valverde‘s postseason collapse last season, the Tigers are looking for a good bullpen arm. Maybe the Royals could even get more than Castellanos for Holland.
Trading Greg Holland would undoubtedly make the Royals bullpen worse. However, the Royals have such good bullpen depth that the damage would be mitigated and they’d get a lot in return. It’s the kind of move that would cost the Royals a little and potentially gain them a lot. Remember when Joakim Soria was closing for KC? It was nice having one of the best closers in baseball, but it never mattered because the Royals were never in contention, and they ended up getting nothing out of Soria in terms of future value. These Royals are different because they possess the pieces to contend, but in order to ensure continued success, they must always look towards the future. Trading Holland would be a future move that wouldn’t do as much damage to the present as one might imagine.