Rangers Extend Holland

The Texas Rangers have locked up one of their key players. Weeks after the team has put off negotiations with Josh Hamilton and Mike Napoli, the Texas Rangers have signed Derek Holland to a five-year, $28.5 million deal. The extension will cover Holland’s remaining arbitration years, and his first year of free agency. It also includes club options for 2017 ($11 million) and 2018 (11.5 million). The 25-year-old starter had a breakout season for the Rangers last year, tossing 198 innings and posting a 3.6 WAR. While Holland isn’t considered an ace just yet, he won’t have to become one to live up to this contract.

There are four other pitchers who recently signed five-year extensions with nearly the same amount of service time as Holland.

Player Years Money K% BB% Best Season
Derek Holland 5 $28.5 million 18.9 8.1 3.6 WAR
Jon Lester 5 $30 million 17.4 7.6 5.1 WAR
Gio Gonzalez 5 $42 million 21.9 11.3 3.5 WAR
Trevor Cahill 5 $30.5 million 15.1 8.1 2.5 WAR
Yovani Gallardo 5 $30.1 million 25.7 11.9 2.7 WAR

Looking at the table, Holland stacks up pretty favorably with those pitchers. While he might not have the same pedigree as those guys, Holland’s 3.6 WAR from last season ranks as the second best season among all of those pitchers before they signed their extensions. While Holland isn’t necessarily an elite strikeout guy, he still performs well in that category. And even though Gallardo and Gonzalez strike out more hitters, Holland doesn’t walk nearly as many batters. With two years of service time under his belt, Holland looks like one of the more promising pitchers on this list. The fact that his extension is the cheapest of the bunch indicates the Rangers may have gotten Holland at a slight discount.

The other positive thing about this list is that every player on it — with the exception of Gonzalez, who has yet to pitch since he signed his deal — improved after receiving their extensions. Trevor Cahill only saw a slight bump in his WAR last season, but Lester and Gallardo both had significantly better seasons after signing their deals. Holland is still young, and his performance last season showed promise, so there’s a decent chance he’ll get better as well. Holland may not reach the ridiculous 6.4 WAR put up by Lester in 2009, but a WAR between 4-4.5 isn’t out of the question.

By signing Holland, the Rangers were able to get one of their young stars under control for a significant amount of time. The team has attempted to extend many of their key players this off-season, only to table those extensions before a deal was reached. With Holland signed for the next five seasons, the Rangers lock up another part of their young rotation. While he was already going to be under the Rangers control for most of those seasons, the team at least bought themselves some cost certainty. They won’t have to worry about Holland’s salary rising through the arbitration process, and can use that certainty to lock up other key players in the near future.

With Holland locked up, the Rangers can pair him with Yu Darvish, Neftali Feliz, Matt Harrison and Alexi Ogando, all of whom are under team control for the considerable future. Ogando will likely find himself in the bullpen this season, but performed well as a starter last year. If the Rangers choose to move him back to the rotation once Colby Lewis‘ deal is up, they would still have a formidable rotation. The Rangers currently have one of the best rotations in team history, and it looks like they’ll be able to keep these players together for quite some time.

This looks like a fair deal for both sides. Holland receives the same amount of money that similar pitchers received at the same point in their careers, and the Rangers paid fair market price for his services. Based on the fact that most of the comparable pitchers got better after signing their deals, this may have been an ideal time for the Rangers to offer this deal to Holland. If Holland can start producing at or near “ace” level, the Rangers could have a nice bargain on their hands. At that point, picking up his two options would be a no-brainer.

It also gives the team some cost certainty going forward. If they still want to work out deals with Josh Hamilton or Mike Napoli, at least they’ll know exactly they have locked up in Holland. That was no guarantee if they let Holland go through the arbitration process. Holland may not be a household name just yet, but the Rangers just locked up a very good young pitcher at a very fair price.

Chris is a blogger for CBSSports.com. He has also contributed to Sports on Earth, the 2013 Hard Ball Times Baseball Annual, ESPN, FanGraphs and RotoGraphs. He tries to be funny on twitter @Chris_Cwik.

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Does “about the same amount of service time” mean all these pitchers were signed through their first FA year? Also, the options, if any, make a difference. That should be included in the analysis. Is “Best Season WAR” better than total WAR, considering these guys all have the same service time? No offense intended, but I don’t feel like this article says much more than “Chris Cwik likes this deal.”