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All-Star closer Greg Holland, eligible for arbitration, leaving deal talks up to his agent

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Royals pitchers and catchers report to Arizona for the start of spring training on Friday, and that presumably means All-Star closer Greg Holland will be there.

Of course, there's a little business that still needs to be finished.

Holland is eligible for arbitration and the two sides have yet to reach an agreement. He asked for $5.2 million after going 2-1 with a 1.21 ERA and 47 saves, while the Royals offered $4.1 million. Either way, it's a big bump from the $539,000 he made last season.

The Royals would not disclose when his arbitration hearing will take place. Hearings run through Feb. 21.

"Every negotiation is different," said general manager Dayton Moore, who has never gone to arbitration with a player since joining the Royals in 2006. "It's a reflection of a player, what they've accomplished at that stage of their career, what kind of leverage they have."

The last Royals player to go to arbitration was outfielder Emil Brown, who won his case in 2006, before Moore was hired. In 2005, pitcher Jeremy Affeldt lost his case with Kansas City.

"We don't mind going to a hearing. We haven't experienced that since we've been here together, but it's not by design," Moore said. "Getting a deal done prior to a hearing is going to be more challenging for us going forward as long as we have players excelling and doing well."

The Royals had little trouble reaching deals with their other arbitration-eligible players: outfielder Justin Maxwell, first baseman Eric Hosmer, catcher Brett Hayes and relief pitchers Tim Collins, Luke Hochevar and Aaron Crow. They also agreed to a deal with Emilio Bonifacio, who was designated for assignment when the club re-signed veteran pitcher Bruce Chen. The club requested unconditional release waivers on Bonifacio on Monday.

Moore has already signed several of what he considers the cornerstones of the Royals' future to long-term deals. Holland said he'd be open to such a contract, but he'd rather stay out of the negotiations.

"I think everybody in our clubhouse would like a long-term contract," he said. "Being here in Kansas City, I love the town. I love the fans. I'd really take a lot of pride in being here when we took the next step, making the playoffs and eventually winning a championship.

"But it's a business," Holland added, "and you never know. You just stay in the moment, prepare, throw every pitch like it may be your last one. And the fact of the matter is people move around, especially nowadays. It's hard to stay in the same place for a long time."

While it's just as rare to find a shut-down closer, they tend to come with risk. Most of them are hard-throwing — Holland certainly qualifies — and prone to injury, something he has yet to experience. The Royals went down that road with Joakim Soria, whom they wound up paying $6 million in 2012 for doing nothing — the two-time All-Star was recovering from Tommy John surgery.

Kansas City wound up declining Soria's options and he now pitches for the Texas Rangers.

As for discussions of a long-term deal, "I'm letting my agents take care of that," Holland said. "Would everyone in that room like to be here for their whole career? Yeah, but it's probably not going to happen."

And this season? Well, the Royals and Holland will get together on a number eventually. Otherwise, an arbitrator will be on hand to help them out.

"We'll do our best to get a deal done with what we feel is fair," Moore said, "and players certainly have their representatives and they'll do what they feel is right."

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