Well, I had been hoping we'd run into some scrap of news that would perk up everybody's interest during the stretch run to Opening Day, and I suppose the big news of late Monday evening/early Tuesday morning qualifies to that end, as Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News is reporting that the Rangers are close to signing left-hander Derek Holland to a deal that would guarantee him at least five years and lock him up through at least the 2016 season.
This development on the contractual front comes as something of a pleasant (albeit not entirely unexpected) surprise, as there had been talk of a five-year extension being in the works as far back as mid-December; by the middle of January, however, those talks had petered out, and at least one ESPNDallas.com source indicated that those talks were unlikely to resume during what remained of the off-season. Something clearly changed in that regard, and there's something else worth noting here as well -- during that mid-December window, FOXSports.com's Anthony Andro reported that there was a sixth-year club option being discussed. Keep that in mind as this story continues to take shape.
After suffering through some assorted growing pains in 2009-10, Holland enjoyed what could objectively be described as a semi-breakout season in 2011, as the 25-year-old southpaw amassed nearly 200 innings of above-average ball and overcame struggles in both the 2011 ALDS and ALCS en route to spinning one of the greatest starts in World Series history (8.1 innings of two-hit, no-run ball in Game 4) and giving Texas new post-season life. That isn't the (nearly) happy ending that most of envisioned on those occasions when the Rangers reportedly attempted to package Holland into deals for Roy Halladay and Matt Garza and Cliff Lee, but they aren't here, and Holland is here, and I'm good with that:
Provided that this extension is ultimately hammered home, Holland's existing $504,700 deal for the 2012 season will be nullified, and he'll probably net a nice immediate pay raise and/or bonus (say, $1 million or thereabouts), followed by something around $15-16 million for his three arbitration-eligible seasons in 2013-15, followed by a 2016 salary worth roughly $10-12 million as his first free agent-eligible season is bought out. If there's a 2017 team option included, you'd probably be looking at something just a tick higher with a standard-fare buyout between $500,000 and $1 million, meaning that this deal could be worth as little as $26-27 million over five years, or possibly as much as $40-42 million over six years.
That wouldn't confer Texas too much of a long-term discount, but it would lock in a talented, productive, durable lefty for the next half-decade at a reasonable price, and inject some added cost certainty and club control into the team's five-year plan. If Holland simply maintains his 2012 pace going forward, this is a nice deal. If he gets better, though, this has the potential to be a slam-dunk signing capable of providing gobs of surplus value ... and the fact that the Rangers are pulling the trigger on this kind of commitment itself suggests that the Rangers believe Holland is going to get better.