Step 1: Be a left handed pitcher.
Step 2: Put up better than average numbers in your first two years of Major League service.
Step 3: Be willing to sign away a free agent year or two at the option of the club with whom you’re signing.
The Texas Rangers and Derek Holland have agreed to such a template, with the pitcher and team signing a five year contract worth $28.5 million, that also includes two club options for 2017 and 2018. Both Ricky Romero and Jon Lester signed similar deals with their clubs while only giving up a single club option and making a little bit more money.
Put simply, those two players are better than Holland, but not so much better as to make it any less remarkable that the newly extended young pitcher is the third best pitcher in the Rangers’ rotation, while the other two respecitvely represent their teams’ ace. That doesn’t make this an over payment for Holland, but rather a comment on the depth of a revamped Rangers rotation that had the incredible distinction last year of having only five games started by pitchers that weren’t a part of the team’s Opening Day rotation.
Holland stands to be a big part of that rotation now, and obviously with this new contract, into the future. His overall numbers may not be as good as Romero’s or Lester’s when they signed their deals, but Holland has shown improvements with his command and ground ball rate as he’s become more experienced and more comfortable at the Major League level.
With the Rangers fielding one of the best defensive infields in the game, that above average ground ball rate is important. We see through his player card on Brooks Baseball that he didn’t necessarily throw more sinkers last season, but the pitch had a lot more vertical movement for him in 2011 than it did in previous years.
If he can improve or even maintain those numbers, this deal, which locks up Holland through at least his last year of close to league minimum, three years of arbitration eligibility and his first free agent season, will be very team friendly. And with the “first world problems” that the Rangers are scheduled to face in the coming years, the team’s ability to keep their success stories at a discounted rate, in combination with the impressive array of talent scheduled to come up in the near future, places Texas in a good stead to be the front runners of their division for a long time to come, no matter what splashes their rivals make on the free agent market.
The Texas Rangers continue to be the team, both in terms of on the field and off, that most others aspire to be.