Projecting Clay Holmes' free agent contract: Will Yankees re-sign star closer?

New York Yankees v Tampa Bay Rays
New York Yankees v Tampa Bay Rays / Julio Aguilar/GettyImages

The Yankees have done a phenomenal job at spinning flawed straw into bullpen gold since Matt Blake's arrival, and there's no better embodiment of that process than current closer Clay Holmes.

Ironically enough, the right-hander's emergence and maturation unwittingly also made a fairly strong case for the Yankees moving on from him at year's end. Do the Yankees view Holmes as the one bullpen capstone they can't live without? Or do they foresee the next Holmes lurking within their ranks/on someone else's roster?

Regardless of the answer to the floating, difficult end-of-year question, Holmes has advanced significantly towards securing himself the bag. If he needed a strong April to combat allegations of his propensity to cause cardiac distress, he did so emphatically; he survived his first real patented air-gulper on Friday in Tampa, maintaining a 0.00 ERA (is that good?).

His season won't remain unblemished forever, but that won't change the fact that Holmes, pinpoint or searching for his best slider on Pitch No. 30, is still one of the game's great closers with elite stuff. And while MLB teams don't pay the same premium for closers they once did, odds are the 31-year-old Holmes will command at least three years of security this winter.

Clay Holmes Contract: Projecting Yankees' Chances of Retaining Him in Free Agency

Despite remarkable year-over-year turnover (Jonathan Loaisiga injured, Wandy Peralta and Michael King departed), the Yankees possess the second-best bullpen ERA in baseball entering play on Tuesday. The one thing they lack is swing and miss. Will the Yankees value Holmes' ability to induce whiffs highly enough to give him four guaranteed years? Or will they balk at the price of paying exorbitant, $15+ million annual sums to a reliever they built (and believe they can build again)?

More likely than not, Holmes will be pitching elsewhere in 2025. A three-year deal worth $17 million per season seems plausible, a price that has likely risen since the tail end of 2023. Maybe the Yankees could reduce the AAV and offer four years and $60 million? It's tough to imagine them going much higher, and their best hope of retaining Holmes might be the closer entering the market, then realizing which types of teams typically pay big money for relievers. Usually, it's the ones with excess money to spend who need a shortcut to success. The Angels are on Line One, Clay.

Clay Holmes free agency destinations

However, there are three teams that would worry the Yankees if they were to get seriously involved on Holmes. The defending World Champion Texas Rangers, if they get their television deal sorted, will be flush with cash and in desperate need of back-end help. The Philadelphia Phillies always have a need in the 'pen, and as long as they're led by Dave Dombrowski, will be able to absorb the occasional bold cash splash, which other teams might find unwise. And what about the Orioles and their new owner? Félix Bautista should be back, but Craig Kimbrel will be long gone. If Baltimore's willing to spend, why would they cross their fingers and lean on an internal option without a backup plan?

The bidding war might not be as extensive as it would've been a decade ago, but there should still be enough competitive teams involved to force the Yankees to pivot elsewhere. Enjoy the season as it unfolds, but there's no need to sweat this particular free agency chase, with several significant pieces also on the table. The Yankees, for all their front office faults, probably will not be sweating it, either (and will be correct to stay calm).