Derek Holland is replacing Chris Sale.
Well, not really. But yes, really.
The first major move since the White Sox traded their two best players, Holland is the kind of signing we’ll have to get used to. He’s only under contract for one year, during which he’ll make $6 million with $2 million in incentives. Holland will attempt to resurrect a once-promising career with the White Sox, and the White Sox will attempt to cash in on any rejuvenation at the trade deadline.
In a remarkably thin free-agent pitching class, Holland looked as good as anybody relegated to one-year territory. Even though he’s only thrown 203 innings over the last three seasons. Even though he had knee surgery, then struggled to bounce back from a shoulder strain. Even though he had career lows in fastball velocity and ground-ball percentage in 2016. That’s not the kind of profile you’d prefer from the first pitcher tasked with replacing the starts Sale provided over the last five seasons, but somebody needs to pick up the innings to preserve order and development in the high minors, and the pickings are slim.
The hope is that Herm Schneider’s shoulder-strengthening program alleviates Holland’s biggest physical obstacle. The knee injury was a different matter, and research turns up an unsettled conflict. He needed his cartilage repaired in January 2014, this much we know. The official reason is that he tripped on his dog, which was offered to combat a rumor that he injured it in a rec hockey league.
That kind of extracurricular coverage comes with the territory, as Holland is what you’d call a card. He’s affable and wacky, which is a combination that has not always worked on the South Side, but here he goes regardless:
Derek Holland was taking one of his five pet lizards to a veterinarian in Texas on Wednesday when he was being introduced to media as the newest member of the White Sox. [...]
Holland, who also owns a dog and a chinchilla, said the lizard is fine now after it had stopped breathing for a time Tuesday night. As for his decision to sign with the Sox after eight seasons with the Rangers, Holland hopes to breathe some life into his injury-hindered career and his new team.
Here’s how the rotation looks after the Holland signing:
- Jose Quintana
- Carlos Rodon
- Miguel Gonzalez
- Derek Holland
- James Shields
That’s still watchable enough for a rebuilding effort, which means it hasn’t gone far enough. Now we’re left to wait for the market to turn to Quintana, which remains largely unchanged. The White Sox have reportedly set the price high, and teams are pretending not to be that interested.
Ken Rosenthal said the Sox are intent to wait the market out, and as of this morning, Jon Heyman doesn’t hear anything imminent, either:
no one's said magic words yet for quintana. price should be v high. 4.5 avg war last 4 yrs. only issue's been run support.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 15, 2016
chisox are still listening to offers for jose quintana. astros involved, but of course others r too. 27, 4 yrs control.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 15, 2016
But I’d still assume that Quintana will ultimately go within the next few weeks, because Rosenthal’s reporting lines up with my impressions of the market for White Sox veterans:
Teams likely will not part with significant prospects for first baseman Jose Abreu when they still can buy a free agent such as Edwin Encarnacion, Mark Trumbo or Mike Napoli. The same is true with Melky Cabrera, considering the number of outfielders who still are available in trade and free agency. And few clubs need a third baseman such as Todd Frazier; the Dodgers reached agreement with Justin Turner on a surprisingly reasonable four-year, $64 million deal in part because the demand at the position was not all that high.
The White Sox don’t have to trade Quintana, but they also can’t wait for the yield to improve on all the remaining tradeable veterans, lest they end up holding the bag. It’s banal to say they should take the best-available deal, because duh. Hopefully, the circumstances surrounding a Quintana trade will resemble the approach to the Sale deal, where multiple teams were involved and willing to be played off each other for a chance at the prize. As the Holland signing shows, there isn’t much else out there otherwise.