SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. Does Derek Holland have it in him? Holland, who turned 30 last month, will try to become the league’s latest reclamation project in 2017. After eight seasons with the Rangers, including the past three that have been marred by injuries, Holland is a free agent.
“I think it’s a watershed moment for him and his career,” said former Rangers assistant general manager Thad Levine, who was at the GM meetings in his new job as the Twins’ GM. “I have faith that he’s going to take this as seriously as the occasion calls for, and he’s going to capitalize on the fact that there’s not a lot of starting pitching in this market.”
With a strong first half in 2017, Levine said, Holland could find himself a hot commodity at the trade deadline in July.
“He’s someone who’s an asset that a team could acquire in the stretch drive,” he said. “He cares. He’s an exceptionally hard worker and he’s a good teammate. You never want to be put in this situation in your career, but the good news is the best is yet to come for him. He has a chance to define the next chapter of his career. It’s not going to be defined for him. He’s going to be able to own that, and I think he’ll take that very seriously.”
For Levine, Holland’s path to rehabilitating his career is proving he can stay healthy.
“When he stays healthy he’s a good pitcher,” Levine said.
Rangers GM Jon Daniels echoed Levine’s feeling and left the door open for Holland to resign with the Rangers, but at a dramatically lower salary.
“I think the injuries just kind of derailed him,” Daniels said. “It’s three years in a row, that’s the biggest thing. If he was healthy and throwing innings it would have been a much different decision.”
The $11 million Holland was due to earn for the Rangers was untenable, he said. “That’s what it was. We’re certainly open to taking chances on guys, and we have taken chances with some guys with injury history. We just weren’t comfortable with that dollar figure.”
Front office shuffle
The Rangers hope to soon announce how they’ve restructured their front office in the wake of Levine leaving for the Twins. The changes will include field coordinator Jayce Tingler moving into an executive role, Daniels said.
“We might structure things a little differently. We’re inclined to promote our own but we’re still working through it,” he said. “We’ve all been together for a long time. There are existing relationships, there’s trust, communication.”
That could make the changes relatively smooth as roles for minor league operations director Mike Daley, professional scouting director Josh Boyd and amateur scouting director Kip Fagg are potentially altered.
“There’s an opportunity to maybe move some responsibilities around and utilize strengths in different spots, involve a bigger group in the decision-making process,” Daniels said. “It’s not just with Thad leaving, but other priorities we want to address.”
Tingler’s move will leave the Rangers looking for an outfield instructor.
Daniels doesn’t expect Levine to poach anyone from the Rangers’ front office.
“Hopefully not. He’ll keep his dirty hands off our people,” Daniels joked. Daniels did, however, say if it was a life-changing opportunity he’d keep an open mind.
“If it’s truly an opportunity for one of our people to improve their lives and help Thad and those guys we’d be open to the discussion,” he said.
Levine responded with a joke of his own: “We both agreed that I wouldn’t take anyone he didn’t want me to take, and I wouldn’t take anyone he wanted me to take.”
Choo’s future role
Daniels said he’s open to having outfielder Shin-Soo Choo as a designated hitter in 2017. With Prince Fielder no longer an option, the Rangers are looking for a bat to get most of the DH at-bats. Of course, Daniels bows to manager Jeff Banister to make those calls.
“I don’t think it has to be one or the other,” he said. “I think the DH can be flexible for a variety of guys.”
Plus, Daniels said, Choo’s injuries in 2016, which included a broken arm, weren’t a product of him playing right field. Choo, 34, was limited to 48 games in 2016. He hit .242 with seven homers and 17 RBIs.
“There’s something to be said for reducing wear and tear,” Daniel said.
The Rangers have several outfield options going into 2017 and are still hoping to add a center fielder. Nomar Mazara, Ryan Rua and Delino DeShields join Choo looking for starting spots.