Rox come to terms with former All-Star closer Holland

Free-agent reliever seeking comeback after Tommy John surgery in 2015

Rox come to terms with former All-Star closer Holland

DENVER -- The Rockies announced on Saturday that they have agreed to terms on a one-year contract with free-agent relief pitcher Greg Holland. The contract includes a conditional option. Additionally, the Rockies have designated right-hander Eddie Butler for assignment.

Financial terms were not immediately known, but a Major League source said the deal is for $7 million.

Holland, 31, was an American League All-Star with the Royals in 2013 and '14, and pitched through a right elbow injury for most of 2015 before being shut down late in a regular season that saw Kansas City win the World Series. Holland underwent Tommy John surgery to repair the UCL ligament in the elbow and missed the 2016 season.

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"I had surgery in October [2015], so I've been 14, 15 months now," Holland said. "So I fully anticipate being ready to go Day 1 of Spring Training, and more importantly, being ready to go in April. I feel really healthy, healthier than I've felt in a long time, and I'm really, really enjoying this opportunity right now."

Rockies pitching coach Steve Foster was the Royals' bullpen coach when Holland broke into the Majors in 2010, and that was believed to be a selling point. The Nationals, looking to replace free agent Mark Melancon, were considered a prime competitor for Holland.

This past season, the Rockies' bullpen posted the Majors' highest ERA at 5.13. The Rockies began addressing the issue by signing lefty Mike Dunn, formerly of the Marlins, for three years and $19 million, with an available $1 million a year in performance bonuses based on games finished. If Holland is healthy and back to form, the Rockies will have the experienced Major League closer they have lacked.

Holland's place in Rox bullpen

"When we figured out there was some sort of equal interest in the opportunity with us and some sort of equal viewpoint on what the future holds this organization -- the near future and hopefully beyond -- I think it became clear, without speaking for Greg, that this was potentially a really good match," general manager Jeff Bridich said of negotiations with Holland's representatives.

Holland posted a 1.32 ERA and 93 saves for the Royals in 2013 and '14 -- a period that saw him strike out 13.4 batters per nine innings. In 2015, while struggling with pain in the elbow, Holland still went 3-2 with a 3.83 ERA and 32 saves.

Over six seasons, the righty has struck out 12.1 batters per nine innings.

The Rockies also have right-hander Adam Ottavino, who was the closer for part of 2015 before undergoing Tommy John surgery and after returning last July; lefty Jake McGee, the closer at the start of last season; and righty Carlos Estevez, who became closer when McGee suffered a left knee injury last June. If all are healthy, and with the addition of Dunn, the Rockies have hard throwers from both sides that can either operate in a setup role for Holland, or take some of the ninth-inning load if Holland isn't at full strength.

"I don't know about the other guys, but to me, it doesn't make one bit of a difference [who closes]," Ottavino said. "As long as I can help contribute to wins, that's my goal."

Ottavino on closers in bullpen

However, Holland looked healthy in November, when he pitched for scouts from multiple teams at a showcase in Arizona. His velocity was understandably nowhere near the 96-mph range that it was when he was dominant with the Royals, but teams left the workout believing he could be healthy for 2017.

"Right now, my throwing program is very similar to what it would be in a normal offseason," Holland said. "Kind of laid back in December, took some rest, and then first of January, get back into a throwing program then progress into getting off a mound a few times before we get to Arizona. Having surgery is not the most optimal thing, but the timing of it worked out really well, so we're in a really good spot."

Besides signing Holland and bringing Dunn aboard, the Rockies have signed Ian Desmond to play first base for five years and $70 million, and utility man Alexi Amarista to a one-year deal that guarantees $1.25 million this year -- a $1.1 million salary and a $150,000 buyout on a $2.5 million option for 2018.

Before the offseason began, Rockies owner Dick Monfort announced that Bridich had the go-ahead to expand payroll beyond the $120,568,480 figure at the end of last season. Counting Holland's reported salary, the Rockies have committed $96,703,571 to 15 players, and the $22 million they must pay Mets infielder Jose Reyes -- whom they released last year -- brings the current payroll to $118,703,571.

Fantasy spin | Fred Zinkie (@FredZinkieMLB)
Once among the most dominant relievers in baseball (1.86 ERA, 3.9 K/BB ratio from 2011-14), Holland is expected to enter a wide-open battle for the closer's role with Ottavino, McGee and Dunn during Spring Training. Though the right-hander was merely average in '15 (3.83 ERA, 1.9 K/BB ratio) before missing all of '16 while recovering from Tommy John surgery, he will warrant mixed-league consideration because of his impressive pre-injury track record. Expectations should be kept in check, however, as the Rockies have had a pitcher exceed 31 saves just three times in the 24-year history of the franchise (none since '09).

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and like his Facebook page. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.