Nats should gamble on Holland as closer

Nats should gamble on Holland as closer

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals are still in the hunt for a closer with the start of a new calendar year. They missed out on top free-agent options like Mark Melancon and Kenley Jansen, but they have remained persistent in their search for a relief ace.

Washington has players on its roster that could be capable of filling in, and the club has maintained that it believes those players can succeed in the role. However, the Nationals' continued search for a closer also signals they would be more comfortable acquiring someone with experience. So my bold prediction for the remainder of the offseason is that the Nats will sign Greg Holland to become their closer.

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The deal makes a lot of sense for both sides.

In a year when the Nats are all-in in their pursuit of a World Series championship, they would likely prefer not to start the year with an inexperienced closer. The Nationals are normally hesitant to trade away many of their top prospects, and they already diminished their farm system last month by trading away three of their top pitching prospects in exchange for Adam Eaton.

Acquiring any of the options on the trade market would require the Nats to give away more of those prospects. But signing Holland would cost only money and would likely only require a one- or two-year commitment.

And Holland was once one of the most dominant relievers. From 2013-14, he posted a 1.32 ERA and 0.889 WHIP with 93 saves and 193 strikeouts to 38 walks. Even though he battled through injuries in 2015, Holland still compiled a 3.83 ERA.

Holland closes the door

But the 31-year-old has not pitched since then after missing the entire 2016 season with Tommy John surgery. That could lead to some pause as to how Holland will bounce back next season, with questions concerning his durability despite his track record.

However, the Nationals have historically not shied away from pitchers who have undergone Tommy John surgery, including Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann. Washington signed Shawn Kelley even though he has had two such procedures, and the organization selected Lucas Giolito even though he underwent the surgery.

So if there is any team that would be more than willing to take on the risk of signing Holland, it is the Nationals, both for their history of dealing with pitchers coming off the surgery and for their clear need in the ninth inning.

Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.