The Red Sox will attend Greg Holland’s showcase today (per Rob Bradford) as the former Royals closer attempts to make a comeback after undergoing Tommy John Surgery.
It’s well known that the Red Sox are in the market for at least one reliever, it’s just not entirely clear what direction they will choose to go. There are a few top names available in free agency, but the team’s history with Mark Melancon would likely keep both parties at a distance. Meanwhile, nothing has changed since last offseason that should leave them willing to consider Aroldis Chapman. They backed away from talks for the (at the time) Reds closer when their background check revealed the incident of domestic violence that would soon become common knowledge.
That still leaves Kenley Jansen available, and there’s another tier of relievers available that fall short of the typical “closer” designation while still bringing plenty to the table. Sergio Romo and their own Brad Ziegler, for instance, represent some of the more reliable options, while Holland would fall into the camp of reclamation projects. Again, there are plenty on offer. Holland is not the only one coming off surgery—Brandon Morrow’s return in the later months of 2016 came out of the bullpen and looked reasonably promising. There’s also players who would probably like that injury excuse, like Drew Storen of the 5.23 ERA (better, at least, after a trade to Seattle).
Holland, for his part, left with quite the resume. In his six seasons with the Royals before undergoing Tommy John Surgery, Holland threw 320 innings of 2.42 ERA ball with a K/9 over 12. That is a lot of strikeouts, and that’s even with a less impressive 2015 season, which isn’t exactly surprising given that it sent him to the operating table.
Still, it would be a little surprising to see the Sox go the reclamation route for the bullpen. They’ve got most of their roster spots filled already, and while they don’t have tons of cash to throw around, it’s hard to imagine them being particularly stingy in the wake of a division win with ticket prices on the rise. It would be hard to lure someone like Jansen in given Kimbrel’s presence, even if the playoffs have shown that it’s entirely possible to be the most important pitcher in the bullpen without taking the ninth. But if the Sox are trying to pack some punch into just a couple moves, investing a roster spot in high-risk, high-reward when there are low-risk, high-reward options available (the Romo, Ziegler types) seems unlikely, and not entirely in-line with how Dave Dombrowski usually runs things.
So the Sox will likely keep Holland in mind if he looks good at his showcase. And yes, the possibility exists he convinces them completely he’s his old self, in which case they should probably try to jump on him as soon as possible. But if a pitcher’s chances for success post-Tommy John are higher than ever before, a year-long absence from the mound is hard to ignore, and it should take quite the performance to make the Sox do so.