Spring training is at the point where its started to be something of a grind.
We're close enough to the start of the season to actually care about how players are performing, but still all too aware of the fact that the games don't count and that players who will be in the minor leagues are still taking time away from regulars. For a team like the Rangers that has very few positions on the roster up for grabs, there's just not all that much left to do except count the hours until the real games get under way.
So it's nice that the team and Derek Holland reached agreement on a five-year, $28 million deal with two team options for the 2017 and 2018 seasons. We can talk about that instead of breaking down another exhibition game and, as we do, we find much to like about it for the Rangers.
While it seems like a long commitment to make to a player with one good year under his belt as a productive starting pitcher, the truth is that anything outside of a total disaster on the mound would mean that you're really just giving up one or two years of bargain prices on Holland. The next two years of arbitration (2014-2015) and first year of free agency would cost much more than the $5.6 million average that the Rangers have with Holland right now.
Should he repeat or improve upon 2011, those two options are going to mean that the team has a good left-handed starter under their control through the year he turns 32. That's the best part of the deal from a baseball standpoint.
There's a chance things don't go that way, of course. Holland could crater or blow out his elbow or have some other turn for the worse in the years to come. That's a worst-case scenario, obviously, but you have to at least acknowledge the downside. In this case, the money isn't so much that the Rangers couldn't move in a different direction and that's a nice safety net to have.
While it's impossible to know whether he's going to wind up living up to the terms of the contract, liking the deal isn't just about what kind of pitcher Holland turns out to be. You can keep that part opaque while loving the fact that the Rangers have created another layer of cost certainty for the next five years. That makes it easier to know the landscape as they deal with Josh Hamilton's impending free agency, Neftali Feliz's future salaries and everything else.
Good left-handed starters don't grow on trees. The Rangers were wise not to take the potential one they have for granted. It will make for a better franchise whether or not Holland (or his mustache) fully blossoms.