Three-headed monster: Royals value rare bullpen trio

Club deems large investment worth it to keep Herrera, Davis, Holland together

Three-headed monster: Royals value rare bullpen trio

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- There was a significant amount of chatter during the offseason regarding the Royals' vaunted bullpen trio of Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland.

Some observers seemed convinced that the logical move for Royals general manager Dayton Moore was to trade one of his gifted back-end relievers -- the rationale being that it didn't make sense for a small-market team such as Kansas City to invest that much money ($22.65 million) of the team's payroll (about $110 million) in that trio.

Moore disagreed. He began saying last October, while the Royals were in the midst of their incredible playoff run, that he was extremely hesitant to break up the trio, and he cited its unique position within Kansas City's formula for winning. Coincidentally, that bullpen trio was a major force in the postseason and locked down opponents during four extra-inning wins and also held on during eight playoff wins decided by three runs or less.

Herrera's scoreless relief

"You just have to look at how we win games," Moore said. "We are built on pitching and defense. We win close games. You simply have to be able to count on your late-inning guys.

"It is a position of strength for our ballclub. There is a certain way we are built to win games, and those guys are a big part of it. If you weaken it, there's no guarantee you can replace what you've taken away. It's not easy."

Indeed, the Royals in 2014 were a team that frequently reduced games to six- or seven-inning affairs, which was quite an advantage for manager Ned Yost.

"If you get a lead by the sixth, your mind starts thinking about putting the other team away," Yost said.

The Royals were almost perfect with the lead after seven innings, and they went an astonishing 72-1.

How significant was that statistic? If the Royals had gone 69-4 with the lead after seven innings -- still very good -- they would have missed the playoffs, and their October magic never would have materialized.

The $22.65 million for the three-headed monster, all in all, seems like a sound investment.

"We simply have to have a solid bullpen," Moore said.

Yost certainly appreciates his boss' conviction in that area. He knows how rare the bullpen trio is in today's game, and he compared Herrera-Davis-Holland to the 1990 Cincinnati Reds' famed "Nasty Boys" -- Norm Charlton, Rob Dibble and Randy Myers.

"The Nasty Boys were pretty good," Yost said. "Those guys were pretty locked down. But I've never seen anything like our guys, other than the Nasty Boys.

"I mean, it's probably easy to find one guy like that. But to find two is really something special. And then to find three, that just doesn't happen. Or almost never happens."

Holland, who recently signed a one-year, $8.25 million deal to avoid arbitration, was relieved that the front office saw fit to keep the trio together.

"It's a lot of money invested, for sure," Holland said. "But maybe that's the way today's game is. I'm just glad we were all able to stay together, because we all know it's a business.

"They were able to pick up Wade's option [$7 million for 2015] and lock in Kelvin for two years [$4.15 million total]. Now we feel we have to go out and do our job, and that's to protect every lead that is given to us. Hopefully we can, because the team believed it was important to keep us."

Jeffrey Flanagan is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jflanagankc. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.