The Giants and left-hander Derek Holland have struck a deal to bring the veteran starter back to San Francisco, per a Monday report from The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal. It’s a one-year contract worth $7 million guaranteed and contains a club option for 2020:
Holland gets $6.5M base in 2019, $6.5M option or $500,000 buyout for ‘20. Base in ‘20 increases to $7M for 24 starts in 2019, $7.5M for 28 starts, $8.5M for 32 starts. https://t.co/tEhelHJKFE— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) January 14, 2019
Holland, 32, had struggled for the latter half of this decade and was at a career crossroads when he signed a minor-league deal with the Giants last spring, having posted ERAs near 5.00 over his last two seasons in Texas in 2015-16 while dealing with chronic shoulder issues, then throwing for a disastrous 6.20 ERA and 1.71 WHIP over 135 innings for the White Sox in 2017. But he pitched his way onto the Giants’ roster in spring training, ended up earning a rotation spot, and became arguably the team’s most consistent starter, leading the team with 30 starts (plus six relief appearances scattered throughout the season). He posted a 3.57 ERA, his best over a full season since 2013, along with a 1.29 WHIP. He was particularly dominant against lefties, holding them to a .440 OPS, compared to a .798 for right-handed hitters.
After his bounce-back season — and with a relative shortage of quality starting pitchers on the free-agent market — it seemed like Holland might have been in line to earn more than the Giants were willing to give him this offseason. It’s not like Farhan Zaidi, who was poached from the Dodgers to serve as the new president of baseball operations, had much of a history with him. And it’s not like the Giants are spending with the expectation of winning a division title in 2019, seeing as they’ve lost 187 games over the last two seasons and have several bad contracts on the books for years to come.
But Holland formed enough of an impression during his one year in San Francisco that the Giants decided to bring him back after his market evidently didn’t come together like he might have hoped. With relatively little starting depth right now — second-year starters Dereck Rodriguez and Andrew Suarez, oft-injured veteran Jeff Samardzija, up-and-down righty Chris Stratton, and 24-year-old prospect Shaun Anderson are the other current rotation options behind potential trade candidate Madison Bumgarner — it seems likely that Holland will be back among the starting five to begin 2019. But he’s shown flexibility to pitch in whatever role necessary if the Giants ultimately end up with better rotation options.
Holland briefly moved to the Giants’ bullpen last summer when Samardzija and Johnny Cueto attempted to return from injuries that would eventually shut them down for the season — then pitched out of the bullpen again during the final weekend of the season — so it seems pretty clear that he’d be agreeable to a relief role if the Giants ultimately decided that was in his best interest.