SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Derek Holland's desire to remain in a Texas Rangers uniform was more important to him than flexibility early in his free-agent years. That was evident in the fact that Holland's representatives and the Rangers negotiated two club options onto his five-year, $28.5 million deal Tuesday.
Holland, 25, was slated to be a free agent after the 2015 season. Now, if he stays healthy and pitches to expectations, he won't be a free agent until after the 2018 season.
"I know I gave up that stuff, the three years, but to me it’s all about being in Texas and wearing that Texas uniform and going and getting some championships," Holland said.
In other words: Holland gave up a chance to maximize his value early in free agency for the security of five years of a guaranteed contract. If he keeps progressing and pitches like he did in 2011, the deal will be a steal for the Rangers, tying up a top left-handed starter heading into his prime for up to seven years. That doesn't happen often. (It also means two of the club's rotation members are tied up for a while with Yu Darvish at six years.)
But it was clear Tuesday why Holland wanted to commit those kind of years to Texas. When he sat down at the podium for his news conference, the number of family members and Rangers' coaches outnumbered the media. Standing at the back of the tent just outside the Rangers' clubhouse in Surprise were Holland's minor league pitching coaches -- Keith Comstock, Terry Clark and Danny Clark.
Holland talked about how the club stayed patient with him and showed trust in him. They allowed him to make mistakes at the major league level, but also watched him mature. In the end, Holland earned the long-term deal because of his second half last season. He was 10-1 with a 2.77 ERA in his final 15 starts in 2011 and he was brilliant in Game 4 of the World Series. In the process, Holland felt the Rangers earned the chance to keep him for a few extra years, too, mainly because he wants to stay in Texas as long as he can. He's been here since he was drafted in the 25th round in 2006 and has developed since then.
"One of the things that we saw that we always anticipate with young players is they will have periods where they struggle and that’s where we see the growth in young players is how they handle that period of time," Rangers CEO Nolan Ryan said. "With Derek, he would bounce back from them and be better each time he went through a period like that. That was very reassuring to us that he was doing the things we had hoped he’d do. The exciting part of this signing is that Derek represents what we try to do in this organization and that’s sign and develop kids that come up and can have an impact on a major league ballclub. He represents that. As an organization, we feel really strong about that."
Holland also gave a lot of credit to manager Ron Washington, who has prodded Holland from the moment he got to Texas. He had the memorable chat with him on the mound in Toronto in late July and chewed him out.
"I was just asking Derek where was the best restaurant in the town," Washington joked Tuesday.
But Holland says it helped him make his turnaround and become a more consistent pitcher.
"There were a lot of things going in my head at that time," Holland said. "I had those couple of bad outings where I didn’t make it out of the second inning. The main thing is you don’t change anything. You continue to push and fight. Things are going to change for you."
Holland has grown up off the mound, too. Don't let the mustache and impersonations fool you. Holland works hard and is committed to getting better. He's talked with the veteran leaders on the club and in the process has sounded more and more like a leader himself the last nine months.
"I just want to be a good role model," Holland said. "I looked up to those guys when I was younger. When I first got here to the minor leagues, I looked up to C.J., Michael Young, those guys that were here. Now it's my turn. I get to be that guy and that's one thing I want to carry out. I won't teach them how to do the weather, though."
And that's Holland. He's goofy and funny off the field, but serious on it. And now he's going to be a Ranger for a very long time. That's a good thing for Texas.