Rockies hopes of contending could hinge on Greg Holland

·Yahoo Sports Contributor

How about those Colorado Rockies?

In what was considered a vital offseason after the franchise slowly but impressively rebuilt its major league core and restocked its minor league system, the organization’s typically stingy ownership has not been shy about signing big checks to help plug the remaining gaps.

In December, the Rockies made a five-year, $70M commitment to Ian Desmond, who is currently slated to play first base. Weeks later, they added veteran left-handed reliever Mike Dunn on a three-year, $19M deal. Now, Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan reports they are nearing a one-year, $7M deal with former Kansas City Royals closer Greg Holland.

Traditionally, the bullpen has been the team’s Achilles heel and an unsolvable puzzle. It was no different in 2016, when Rockies relievers collectively posted a league-worst 5.13 ERA to go along with 28 blown saves. If they hope to contend with stacked National League West rivals like the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants, they will need significantly better bullpen production. If there’s any chance of that happening, it could specifically hinge on Holland’s ability to come back and be a dominant late inning reliever.

The good news is Holland was never not that guy when healthy in Kansas City. From 2011-2014, He posted a 1.86 ERA and 12.6 K/9, while averaging 62 appearances, 64 innings and 28 saves per season. He was even a little bit better in the 2014 postseason, allowing just one earned run over 11 innings.

The bad news is no one knows for sure how healthy or effective Holland will be in 2017. He was sidelined just prior to the Royals remarkable World Series run in 2015, when he was diagnosed with a torn UCL. Holland ultimately required Tommy John surgery, and has not appeared in the major leagues since.

Greg Holland could be the key to success for the Rockies in 2017. (Getty Images)
Greg Holland could be the key to success for the Rockies in 2017. (Getty Images)

Beyond Holland, the Rockies have an interesting mix of experienced relievers, such as Dunn, Jake McGee, Jason Motte, Adam Ottavino and Chad Qualls. They also boast an impressive array of young power arms, highlighted by Miguel Castro, Carlos Estevez and Jairo Diaz. Those pieces will give new manager Bud Black options, but he’ll still need a foundation piece that will allow him to use relievers better suited for supporting roles to do just that.

If Holland can’t provide that foundation, who will? That’s the biggest question Colorado will face entering spring training, because that answer could determine which direction their fortunes go.

For the first time in a long time, it really feels like the Rockies have a lot of the right pieces in the right places. The lineup is as stacked as any in MLB, and they have some versatility now thanks to Desmond’s addition. The starting rotation has some young bulldogs in Jon Gray, Tyler Anderson and Jeff Hoffman. If they get a handle on the seventh, eighth and ninth innings, there’s no reason to discount them as playoff contenders.

More MLB coverage from Yahoo Sports:

– – – – – – –

Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!