The White Sox signed Derek Holland to a one year, $6 million deal on Wednesday in a move that is difficult to hate, even if you don’t totally love it.
Signing a pitcher like Holland, who hasn’t been able to be called both healthy and effective at the same time since 2013, falls under the category of the low-risk flier rebuilding teams take. There’s a non-zero chance Holland can cobble together three above-average months and be flipped for pieces at the deadline, but a probably-better-than-that chance he goes the way of Mat Latos.
He also fits under the category of “Well, somebody has to pitch.”
Gone are the days when Holland had the potential of being a the mid-rotation stalwart the Rangers hoped they had on their hands when, at 24, he posted a 112 ERA+ in 198 innings and threw maybe the game of his life in the 2011 World Series, tossing 8.1 shutout, two-hit innings in a Game 4 win over the Cardinals.
Injuries befell him, however, and after missing nearly all of 2014 because of a micro-fracture surgery on his left knee, he’s battled shoulder problems that have all but zapped his comeback efforts the last two seasons. In 2016 he managed to top 100 innings pitched for the first time since 2013 and posted a 4.95 ERA, 91 ERA+ and career-worst 1.91 K/BB ratio.
And yet despite all of this, Holland somehow makes sense! When you take a gander at the remaining free agent pitchers, the White Sox could’ve done a whole lot worse. One could argue there are better or worse options than Holland — maybe you like Jason Hammel! —but not significantly enough for it to make a difference.
The one frustrating caveat I keep coming back to, however, is that a signing like Holland seems exactly the type of signing a supposedly-contending White Sox team would make, too. Last year, they needed a No. 5 starter and filled the hole with Latos for $3 million. This year they have a larger, Chris Sale-shaped hole to fill and it’s Holland for $6 million. The White Sox spent more money on Holland than any free agent they signed prior to the 2016 season.
All that aside, Holland makes sense. If he eats innings and builds some semblance of trade value, great! If not, another arm of of the recycling bin will do.
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