Signing Jonathan Holder is a Great Move for the Cubs

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The Cubs have agreed to terms with a former New York Yankee reliever, signing Jonathan Holder to a non-guaranteed, one-year deal worth $750K. Holder was non-tendered by the Yankees ahead of the December 2nd non-tender deadline. He was projected to make about a million dollars in arbitration.

In 2020, the 27-year-old struggled, with a 4.98 ERA in 21.2 IP, and his underlying numbers look even worse (5.82 K/9, 3.0 K-BB%, 5.40 SIERA).

Why Signing Jonathan Holder is a Great Move

Signing Jonathan Holder is a flyer, but it could definitely work out well for Jed Hoyer and the Cubs next season.

On the surface level, Holder may look like a bad pitcher. Since 2019, he has a 5.86 ERA and 4.72 FIP. He was in the bottom four percent of the league in K% while walking 10.9% of the batters he faced.

This is definitely a reclamation project, but there is no real risk here. The Cubs are only spending $750K, and they have the ability to waive him at any point in the season. The Cubs had a fairly average bullpen in 2020, with a 4.38 ERA and 4.45 FIP, while posting a 4.03 SIERA as a staff.

In 2019, the Cubs’ bullpen was among the worst in the league, potentially costing them a playoff spot down the stretch. Options like Ryan Tepera, Jason Adam, and Colin Rea all emerged for David Ross in 2020, while Craig Kimbrel took a step up from his horrible 2019 (16.43 K/9, 3.97 FIP, 3.57 SIERA). Signing Jonathan Holder gives Ross another option to go along with Kimbrel and Rowan Wick.

Jeremy Jeffress, Ross’ go-to 9th inning option, is a free agent, and also a successful reclamation project. The Cubs will hope to do the same this year with Holder, who ranked in the 82nd percentile in fastball spin rate and 90th with his curveball.

From 2017-18, his face-value numbers looked great. He had a 3.42 ERA and 3.25 FIP in 105.1 innings. Despite his 6.31 ERA, Holder’s K% increased to 25.4% and his SIERA was still 3.74 in 2019. In 2018, the best season of Holder’s career, he put up a 3.89 ERA, 3.62 FIP, and 23.4 K%. Holder showed that he has the ability to be a solid reliever, and he will look to revert back to his 2017-18 form in Chicago.

Signing Jonathan Holder: Tendencies

When looking deeper at Jonathan Holder’s tendencies, you can see that in 2017, he threw his curveball 27.8% of the time. In 2020, that number was just 3.5%. The consistently 2800+ RPM spin rate of his curve is elite, and he has gotten some great results with the pitch in the past (.250 wOBA, 28.3% K%).

Signing Jonathan Holder may appear to be a bad decision, but he has shown the ability to be great, and he comes at a fairly low price. The Cubs need pitching, and Holder is a great move.

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