A week ago, I debated whether the St. Louis Cardinals should get Wade Davis or Alex Colome. With Davis off the market, it’s time to look at Greg Holland and Colome.
Well, it didn’t take too long after Wade Davis vs. Alex Colome article for something to happen. The St. Louis Cardinals wisely stayed far away from Davis’ 3-year/ $52 million deal, with a vesting option for a fourth year. That’s not to say the Cardinals wouldn’t take the formerly best available closer on the market, but for that price, the Cardinals could have two years of Colome through arbitration.
Now that Davis is gone, my article is less relevant. However, in light of his signing, I am going to debate whether Greg Holland is the better choice than Colome. I’ll be following the same script as my Davis/Colome article, so if you didn’t catch it, check it out in the link below.
According to Fan Graphs, Colome threw 66.2 innings in sixty-five games for the Tampa Bay Rays, while recording a 3.24 ERA. He managed fifty-eight strike outs and thirty total walks, including seven intentional walks. More importantly, Colome led the American League in saves last season with forty-seven. Just a reminder, the St. Louis Cardinals have blown thirty-eight saves in the last two season.
After a year of recovery from Tommy John surgery, Holland threw 57.1 innings to the tune of a 3.61 ERA. In sixty-one games, Holland stuck out seventy batters and walked twenty-seven batters, including one intentional walk. Holland saved forty-one games for the Rockies in 2017, good enough for a tie for second among relievers in MLB.
Like my other comparison article, I will hone in on K/9 ratio, BB/9 ratio, FIP, and WAR.
Holland is a prime example of a surgery not impacting a pitcher’s ability to pitch. After losing the 2016 year due to his recovery from Tommy John surgery, Holland rebounded nicely in 2017. As you can see, Holland actually improved in a lot of his metrics. Besides pitching thirteen more innings than in 2015, Holland improved his K/9 ratio by 11%. While it isn’t a huge jump, it is a good sign for anyone concerned he would lose velocity off his fastball due to his surgery.
The biggest knock on Colome will be his regressing K/9 ratio. Based on the charts provided by Fan Graphs, Colome suffered a 30% decrease in K/9 in 2017. In 2016, Colome had thirteen more strike outs in ten less innings than the fifty-eight strike outs in 2017. Earlier this off-season, I attributed his decline in strike outs as a result of him throwing less off-speed pitches than he used to. In 2016, Colome used a variety of pitches to work his way through the ninth inning.
What I found interesting was Holland also uses two more types of pitches than Colome. Holland has a slider, a curve ball, and a split-finger fastball he throws at times. Colome used to use a curve ball and slider, but went away from them as I just noted.
Holland also lowered his walk ratio by 22%. If you’re a St. Louis Cardinals fan, walks in the late innings are the bane of your existence. Seeing Holland’s improvement with his walks is a major benefit to the closer. However, even though Colome technically increased his ratio by 30%, his ration is a full walk lower than Holland. While it may not seem significant, take into account the nine more innings Colome pitcher over Holland.
If we switch over to FIP and WAR, we find ourselves close to the same pitcher. Across the last two years, Holland’s FIP increased by about 14%. He finished the 2017 season with a FIP of 3.72, which ranks right around above average according to Fan Graphs. Colome saw his FIP score increase by 15% in 2017, but finished with a FIP of 3.37, which grades him as “great,” according to Fan Graphs.
The younger Colome also produced greater WAR over the last two seasons he pitched compared to Holland. Colome produced 3.3 WAR compared to Holland’s 1.8 WAR. I’ll give some benefit of the doubt to Holland because of his injury, but Colome pitched more innings than him in both seasons. There is also one more thing I want to consider.
Last year, Holland had an incredible first half of the season. Then, the wheels came off in the second half of the season. His ERA jumped from 1.62 in the first half to 6.38 in the second half. He gave up seventeen earned runs in the second half of the season. If that is the pitcher the St. Louis Cardinals get, then it’s going to be tough closing games. The Cardinals would hope the regression in the second half of the season is more due to fatigue from his recovery.
Cost of acquisition
Like Davis, Holland’s acquisition comes via free agency and Scott Boras. According to MLB Trade Rumors, their prediction has the St. Louis Cardinals signing him to a 4-year, $50 million deal. That averages to about $12.5 million a year over the four years. Here are a couple of takeaways from this prediction.
The first is it considerably less than what Davis received from the Rockies. if the Cardinals are not willing to get close to $17 million a year, then $12.5 million seems more like the front office. However, the next takeaway is the biggest issue.
Unlike Davis, this deal is a guaranteed four years. Are the Cardinals really looking to pay Greg Holland $12.5 million at age 36? Probably not, but it would beat paying Davis $15-17 million in a fourth at age 36. My point is the Cardinals probably do not want to entertain a four-year deal when Holland is already thirty-two. If he was Colome’s age (29), that is a different story.
With Davis off the market, Holland has a feeling for what teams may be willing to offer. The more likely scenario for Holland is to receive a three-year deal, and potentially have a player or team option in a fourth year. For the sake of this comparison, we will use the MLBTR prediction.
Let’s remind ourselves what Colome could potentially cost by himself.
The St. Louis Cardinals will need to trade for Colome, so the value of the deal can be a little tricky. The difficult part for the Cardinals is weighing the years of control and value of the prospect(s) in a trade for a single player. There is no question the Cardinals will move a pitching prospect, but who?
Let’s consider the high-end of the spectrum in Jack Flaherty and the low-end in in Austin Gomber. According to Fan Graphs, Flaherty’s future value (FV) of 50, while Gomber ranks at 40. Fan Graph’s calculations show a FV of 50 is approximately worth $14 million. A FV of 45 is worth right around $13 million, so we can safely assume Gomber’s value is close to the $10-11 million mark.
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Flaherty’s value, in my opinion, far outweighs value in a deal for Colome. The St. Louis Cardinals would probably look to move someone like Gomber, less value and less projected return, in this deal.
You give up six years of control in Gomber, but that doesn’t mean he will pan out for the Rays.
Which outfielder would the Cardinals be willing to part with in this deal? Well, my short answer would be Randal Grichuk.
The Rays, however, would probably look to help their outfield situation with a prospect. The likeliest may be Harrison Bader. Fan Graphs rates his future value around 45, which for a hitter is roughly $11 million.
If we add everything up, a pitching prospect and outfielder would be close to a total of $20 million future value. I just don’t see the Cardinals sending one of their top arms for a reliever, even if it is a reliever as a good as Colome. So, how does the future value of the deal compare to what Colome will make in arbitration?
In Colome’s case, he is entering his fist season of arbitration. According to MLBTR, Colome is predicted to receive around $5.5 million in his first year. In his second year of arbitration, Colome will be somewhere around the $7 million range. By his third and final year of arbitration, Colome would probably be somewhere in the $9-10 million range. Of course those arbitration years could be bought by his team if they were to agree to a new deal.
However, at the very least, we are looking at Colome’s total value in his remaining arbitration years to be somewhere around $21-23 million. Theoretically, the prospect and outfielder the Cardinals would be willing to give up for Colome would have close to the same value. Meaning the deal’s total value would roughly be around $45 million, just $5 million off Holland’s deal.
However, the depth the Cardinals have in both pitching and outfield shouldn’t dissuade the Cardinals from making a potential deal.
What would I do?
Much like my comparison to Davis, I am still taking Alex Colome in this comparison. If this were the 2013 Greg Holland, then I am team Holland all day. But moving forward in 2018, Colome is still the better deal for me.
Again it comes down to production, age, and value of contract. Colome’s production is better than Holland right now and is younger than Holland. If we take a look at the value of deals for either pitcher, the $45 million cost for Colome is less than the total value of Holland’s $50 million deal. We are also assuming Holland, as well as Colome, doesn’t continue to regress like he did in last year’s second half.
By the time Colome is a free agent, there is a chance the St. Louis Cardinals will already have a closer in the making. They could sign Colome to an extension at that point, but given how they handled Davis, it’s not likely.
Yes, we give up prospects from someone like Colome, but the return is worth the price paid in my opinion. It keeps the Cardinals in control of their financial situation. Although, I admit, Holland’s deal wouldn’t necessarily strap the Cardinals down. They would still be able to make moves in the future for sure.
There is just something about paying a 36-year-old reliever that kind of money I can’t get behind.
Which pitcher would you choose? Holland or Colome? Let me know in the comments below.