Avoiding the knee-jerk reaction.
The news hit Twitter a little after 5:00 yesterday afternoon, news that Derek Holland had fallen on a staircase at home on Tuesday and underwent arthroscopic surgery on Friday morning to repair torn cartilage in his left knee, which is not the knee that he injured twice in 2010. He’ll miss the start of the regular season, with the club reportedly making plans conservatively for a mid-season return.
I’ve gained about 30 new subscribers and Twitter followers since the news broke, and I’m about to disappoint all of them and most of the rest of you.
My first thought was to speculate about what Texas could do in response, as far as winter acquisitions are concerned. I quickly dismissed that thought. Maybe the Rangers were already in on Masahiro Tanaka, maybe not. But they’re already over budget, and Holland’s injury isn’t going to change whether they’re in the mood to step out even further on Tanaka. They will, or they won’t, but I’d be shocked if that plan is different today from what it was a week ago.
Step up in David Price trade talks with Tampa Bay? If that’s where your head is on this, my response is, as usual: You’re the Rays.
I’d bet it’s more likely that Tampa Bay calls Texas in light of the Holland development than it is that the Rangers call the Rays. And the demand isn’t going to come down from wherever it had been.
Holland isn’t the Rangers’ ace, but he did lead the club in starts and innings pitched in 2013, and was very good (though less effective at home, which could lead to a bad joke in light of this new development, a place I’m going to avoid because I’m better than that, even though I’m obviously not). You don’t replace him with Robbie Ross or Tanner Scheppers or Nick Tepesch or Michael Kirkman or Jose Contreras and expect to get comparable production (to say nothing of the void a Ross or Scheppers shift would leave in the pen), but don’t expect Texas to go out and devote nine figures or four blue-chip prospects or a number one draft pick to go out and find a starter of Holland’s caliber.
The Rangers will probably add another depth piece between now and camp, probably on a non-roster veteran who can come in and compete for a rotation spot.
They were going to do that anyway.
I thought maybe I’d write about the idea that you survive for three months and then you get Holland back, in a pennant race, with a fresh arm. But I decided against fleshing that out, because last year there was optimism in camp that Colby Lewis and Neftali Feliz would be back by mid-season, and after Matt Harrison’s April surgery the half-full glass gave hope of a similar timetable.
As Jon Daniels has pointed out, the rotation that the organization expects to roll out at Frisco in April may be the strongest at that level since this front office arrived. But Chi-Chi Gonzalez and his crew-mates aren’t going to get here any time before Holland gets back.
I thought maybe I’d write about where falling on stairs fits on a list that includes butter knives (Oddibe McDowell), sunflower seeds (Greg Harris), pinky-shaking (Charlie Hough), and high fives (Jeff Baker), but why pile depressing on top of freaky?
I considered writing about the risk of giving long-term deals to starting pitchers, even relatively young ones (Harrison, Holland, Feldman), but I wouldn’t want a redo on the Martin Perez contract, so I’m not going down that path.
It’s been a tremendous winter of aggressive growth at 1000 Ballpark Way, and maybe we’ll look back at the Holland injury as one that gave a young pitcher like Ross an opportunity that he ended up seizing like C.J. Wilson did four years ago. Or one that blunted the Rangers’ first half so much in 2014 that they resisted overpaying for a tier two starter in July, like it turns out they did this past summer.
Or maybe Texas pieces things together in the rotation for a few months, the revitalized offense goes on a tear straight out of the gate, and Holland comes back in the second half with something to re-prove, and he proves it.
But for now, I don’t have the energy to dig deep on any of it. I wanted, at different times in the last 18 hours, to focus this report on the next pitching move Texas might make, on the opportunities opened up even further for a handful of Holland’s teammates, the idea of the lefthander giving Texas a boost himself in July and August, and the risks associated with committing long-term to big league starting pitchers and with overtrading for pitching to accommodate what might appear to be a needy rotation.
I wanted to write something thoughtful, something unemotional, something that stepped away from the immediate gut-punch of the story and examined what this could mean, or lead to.
But I can’t.
It just sucks.