Among the high-profile Major Leaguers still unsigned is reliever Greg Holland, who's coming off a successful 2017 campaign as the Rockies' closer.
The Orioles' four-year deal with right-hander Alex Cobb leaves Holland as the highest-profile free agent remaining on the market, and as Opening Day rapidly approaches, it remains unclear whose uniform the closer will don in 2018.
MLB Network insider Jon Heyman reported on Thursday that the Braves, Cardinals and D-backs are among the teams that have contacted Holland and his agent, Scott Boras, at some point this offseason. But none of those three clubs appears to be a lock to sign the former All-Star.
A source with the Braves told Heyman that Holland is "a long shot" for the club, and the multiyear contract he seeks does not mesh with Atlanta's recent spending patterns.
The Cardinals and D-backs, meanwhile, are two postseason contenders without a fully-established closer. Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak told MLB.com on Thursday that his club may roll into Opening Day without a single pitcher tabbed as the closer, and St. Louis hasn't expressed any serious interest in Holland publicly to this point.
The D-backs also seem content to try Archie Bradley or Yoshihisa Hirano at closer and fill in the gaps as necessary.
Heyman noted the Angels and Rangers as two other clubs without a set closer for 2018, though neither team has expressed public interest in Holland.
It's possible that all of these teams are waiting to see if Holland's asking price will come down, particularly with the start of the season so close. Signing Holland would also cost a team compensation in the form of either a Draft pick or international bonus pool money, as Holland rejected the Rockies' $17.4 million qualifying offer in November. Holland earned $15 million with the Rockies in 2017, his first season back from Tommy John surgery, tying for the National League lead with 41 saves. -- This report was first posted on March 22
Feinsand predicts Holland will sign with Rangers
The Rangers have been holding tryouts for closer, with newly signed Tim Lincecum vying for the role. However, Holland would be a proven ninth-inning arm and relieve Lincecum, who has come out of the bullpen in just eight of his 278 career appearances, of the pressures to close. For this, MLB.com's Mark Feinsand predicts Texas to be his best guess landing spot for Holland.
It may be in the realistic realm of possibility, as MLB Network insider Jon Heyman reported last week that the Rangers have considered Holland. Texas was one of the few suitors for Holland last year, when the right-hander was more of a question mark coming off Tommy John surgery.
But after speaking to reporters on Thursday, general manager Jon Daniels said he doesn't expect any significant additions and believes the closer is in camp.
Once thought to potentially pursue a free-agent starter, the Rangers have quietly put together a veteran rotation that includes Cole Hamels, Martin Perez, Doug Fister, Matt Moore and Mike Minor. That likely will move Matt Bush to the bullpen.
Left-hander Jake Diekman has impressed this spring, making a case to be the closer, which would likely move incumbent closer Alex Claudio into a multi-inning setup role. Keone Kela has also been competing for the role. -- This report was first posted on March 15.
Braves have checked in on Holland
Though the Braves may not have initially been seen as a logistical fit to land Holland -- they're still on the back end of a multiyear rebuild and perhaps a year or two away from pursuing high-profile free agents -- the club is nonetheless doing its due diligence on the top remaining reliever.
The Braves have at least checked in on Holland, according to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman, but it's unclear if that dialogue has moved much at this point. The Braves are projected to have a payroll of $109.8 million, per Spotrac, but according to Heyman, the club doesn't have much financial bandwidth to reach Holland's asking price (for context, Holland turned down both a $15 million club option for 2018 and a $17.4 million qualifying offer from the Rockies).
Holland also comes with Draft pick compensation, and the retooling Braves, who have MLB Pipeline's No. 2 farm system and are expected to graduate a few more prospects in 2018, may view their Draft picks as more coveted. Signing Holland would cost them their third-highest pick, per revenue-sharing regulations as part of the new CBA.
Moreover, the Braves cleared the $43 million still owed Matt Kemp when they traded him to the Dodgers, in part to free up money for next year, per Heyman.
Closer Arodys Vizcaino has looked strong this spring, other than his most recent outing against the Phillies. He's been the club's closer over parts of the past three seasons.
Holland hails from North Carolina, which loosely falls within the Braves' wide geographical audience net, but that doesn't necessarily indicate he's more likely to sign with Atlanta. -- This report was first posted on March 15.
Holland remaining in touch with Angels
The Angels might be one of the few remaining clubs in the market for a closer. And Holland, one of the top free agents at the position, is still available.
MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi reported the club has been in touch with Holland's agent, Scott Boras, recently -- this after reporting in late February that Holland and the Halos were in discussions, and that the club was interested "if the price is right."
Holland's case with the Halos could be more complicated than a pricey, multi-year deal for a pitcher entering his age-32 season. Holland comes with a rejected qualifying offer attached, which for the Halos would mean forfeiting their second-highest Draft pick and $500,000 in international bonus pool money as part of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Depending on the average annual value of a Holland deal, the Angels don't appear to be in line of exceeding the luxury tax for 2018, which is $197 million. According to Spotrac, they are at $171.3 million in total payroll currently. -- This report was first posted on March 7.
Angels could be in play for Holland
The Angels, who upgraded their pitching staff when they signed Japanese phenom Shohei Ohtani in December, aren't seriously considering any other free-agent starters. However, MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi reports the club would consider Holland "at the right price."
Los Angeles currently has Blake Parker, owner of 10 career Major League saves, projected as its closer. Holland, coming off a year in which he locked down a National League-best 41 saves, would likely be a significant improvement.
Holland, 32, flourished after signing a one-year deal with the Rockies prior to 2017, striking out 70 batters in 57 1/3 innings for Colorado in his return from Tommy John surgery. He was selected to the All-Star Game for the first time since making back-to-back appearances as a member of the Royals in '13-14.
Holland would be a welcomed addition to a bullpen that ranked 11th in the Majors last season with a 3.92 ERA. -- This report was first posted on Feb. 25.
Holland's landing spot may be guessing game, but Cubs seem a strong fit
With the Rockies well out of Holland's picture, having signed free agent Wade Davis, could Davis' former team -- now seemingly in need of a closer -- be the most logical fit for Holland? MLB Network insider Jon Heyman believes so.
In a post for FanRag Sports, Heyman admits that Holland's market remains a "guessing game" given the multitude of clubs with needs at closer. The Cubs' plan, for now, is to have Brandon Morrow handle the ninth inning for the revamped bullpen, which also includes new additions Steve Cishek, Dario Alvarez, Cory Mazzoni and Randy Rosario. However, MLB.com's Carrie Muskat reported in January that the Cubs were likely done adding relievers, particularly with young pitchers in the system that could contribute such as Dillon Maples and Rob Zastryzny. Chicago also signed the market's top starter, Yu Darvish, to a $126 million deal last weekend, thus potentially limiting their financial flexibility.
Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein shouldn't be counted out, though, when it comes to creative ways to land pieces he believes are essential. Davis delivered 32 saves last year, and Holland led the National League with 41. Morrow enjoyed a nice bounce-back year with the Dodgers, and pitched in all but one of their 15 postseason games. But he did so as a setup man to Kenley Jansen -- not as the closer.
For a Cubs club that has reached the NL Championship Series three straight years and showing no signs or plans of regression, fortifying the ninth inning may be a chief objective, as Heyman notes.
Other clubs Heyman predicts as possibilities include the Cardinals (to whom Holland has been strongly linked), Phillies (widely viewed as a potential dark horse in the NL), Angels (who have re-tooled their roster but still have a void at closer) and Astros (who retained Ken Giles, their 34-save closer from '17). -- This report was first posted on Feb. 15.
Cardinals a fit for Holland?
The premier free-agent reliever on the market is still looking for a new home, and the Cardinals are still in the market for bullpen help.
It's possible Holland's resurgence in 2017 could help him land the closer role in St. Louis were the two sides to link up, MLB.com's Richard Justice speculates.
The Cardinals brought in right-hander Luke Gregerson this offseason on a two-year deal, and while he has closed games for the Astros in 2015 and 2016, Holland racked up 41 saves for Colorado last year.
St. Louis is trying to replace former flamethrower Trevor Rosenthal, and Holland's 11 strikeouts per nine innings and 3.61 ERA last season bested Gregerson's numbers (10.3 K/9, 4.57 ERA).
Holland reportedly turned down a three-year offer to return to the Rockies before they signed Wade Davis. The 32-year-old is two years removed from Tommy John surgery, so he comes with some risk, but he -- paired with Gregerson and young fireballer Alex Reyes, who is recovering from Tommy John himself -- could form a formidable trio in the back end of the Cardinals' bullpen. -- This report was first posted on Feb. 14.
Return to Rockies not in cards for Holland
A return to Colorado seemed to be a logical fit for Holland this offseason, but earlier this month, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported that Holland rejected the Rockies' offer of three years and $52 million. That's the same offer that Wade Davis eventually accepted to become Colorado's new closer, which gives him the highest average annual value of any reliever.
The free-agent landscape continues to move at a glacial pace, particularly at the top with marquee players like Holland. The Rockies represented the most obvious fit, given Holland's close relationship with pitching coach Steve Foster and the level of comfort he felt with the club in his return from Tommy John surgery. With Colorado seemingly out of the picture, there is no clear alternate front-runner for the former All-Star -- particularly one who would offer the historic deal Holland is looking for. The Cardinals could be a fit as they look to fill out the back end of their bullpen, while the rival Cubs could look to replace Davis with his former Royals teammate.
Employing his effective fastball-slider combination, the 31-year-old Holland paced the National League with 41 saves in 2017 while posting a 3.61 ERA over 57 1/3 innings. The righty was an integral part of Kansas City's back-to-back American League pennant winners in 2014-15, teaming with Davis and Kelvin Herrerato form one of the most dominant bullpens in recent memory. -- This report was first posted on Feb. 7.