Thursday, September 10, 2009

Free Agent at the End of the Season: Matt Holliday

Before the 2009 season began, people wondered if Matt Holliday was simply a good hitter, who became a great hitter because he played half of his games at Coors Field. During his time with the Rockies, Holliday was one of the most feared hitters in baseball and routinely put up numbers that seemed possible only in video games.

However, the 2009 season was going to be huge for Holliday. In a move designed for the future, the Rockies traded Holliday to the Oakland Athletics for three players. Finally we would know if Holliday was just a great hitter at Coors Field or if he could perform at an optimal level elsewhere.

During his tenure with the A's, Holliday performed like so many of us thought he would once he was away from Coors Field: above average. Holliday put up nice numbers, but they were nothing close to his production with the Rockies.

But just a few days before the trading deadline, Matt Holliday was traded from the lifeless A's to the upstart Cardinals and the rest, as they say, is history. Since arriving in St. Louis, Holliday has been absolutely amazing: .386, 12 homers, 61 hits in 160 ABs, and a God like 1.143 OPS.

What will Holliday's amazing stretch with the Cardinals mean to his free agent candidacy? Let's take a look:

The Case for Holliday

-Fantastic offensive player

-The funny part is that I'm not sure that the word fantastic does justice to just how good of a hitter Matt Holliday has become. Holliday can do it all on the offensive side: hit for power, get on base, steal bases, drive in runs, etc. Take a look at these stats:

-Since 2005, Holliday has never hit lower than .307.
-.319 lifetime batting average
-Holliday scored 100+ runs in each season from 2006-2008
-Holliday hit over 30 home runs in 2006 and 2007 and has a realistic chance to hit 30+ in 2009
-Holliday's career OBP is a gaudy .388
-lifetime OPS of .937
-stolen at least 10 bases in every season since 2005

-defense


Even though Holliday is known for his offensive ability, whatever team that signs Holliday would actually be acquiring a pretty good defensive player. Since 2004, Holliday has only produced a negative UZR once (2006) and has a lifetime UZR/150 of 6.3. There are signs that Holliday's range has slipped from an elite level (10+), but his range still makes him a well above average defensive left fielder (6.0).

-age

Keep in mind that Holliday is only 29 years old. You know what that means: Holliday is just entering his "prime years" and should be able to perform at a optimal level for years to come.

The Case against Holliday


-Can he hit away from Coors Field?

-Until Holliday is able to consistently produce away from Coors Field, this question will continue to be thrown out there by baseball people. As I mentioned before, Holliday has certainly helped his cause because of his great performance with the Cardinals, but people will always take note of how gaudy his Coors Field numbers were and how much his stats declined when he was on the road (granted, Holliday's numbers were still very good).

-The real Matt Holliday: first half or second half
?

It would have been interesting to see what kind of numbers Holliday would have put up if he remained with the Athletics for the full season. Remember that Holliday only hit 11 home runs in 346 at bats with the A's, so by all accounts, it looked like his numbers we're taking a nose dive. There are a million different reasons why Holliday all of a sudden became one of the best hitters in baseball again once he left the A's...The Cardinals are in a pennant chase, the NL is much weaker, Holliday simply heated up during the summer, etc. But I ask you this: which is the real Matt Holliday- the first half version or the second half?

Competition


At this point, you have to say that Holliday is in a class all by himself on the free agent market. He is the only hitter on the market, who has clearly established himself as a superstar player. Even with all the questions surrounding Holliday and Coors, Holliday's numbers speak volumes. In my opinion, he's the only guy on the free agent market this offseason, who has put himself in a position for a deal exceeding $90 million bucks. There is no other player on the market this offseason that offers Holliday's combination of production, ability, and age. The man is in a class all by himself at the moment.

Elias Ranking: Type A

-Conventional wisdom says that the Cardinals will offer Holliday arbitration. Teams will not shy away from Holliday because of his elias ranking. Holliday is the kind of player that teams are willing to lose draft picks to acquire. The only way I can see the Cardinals not offering Holliday arbitration is if their financial situation is so bad that they don't want to risk getting stuck with the large amount of money Holliday would have coming to him.

(rankings courtesy of MLBTR)

Prediction

(7 years/$110 million)

Here are some comparable contracts:
-Carlos Beltran (7 years/$119 million)
-Vernon Wells (7 years/$105 million)
-Carlos Lee (6 years/$100 million)
-Torii Hunter (5 years/$90 million)


After the 2007 season, I thought there was a legitimate chance that Holliday could receive a contract that exceeded $150 million. However, given the state of the economy, I'm going to stay conservative on my first estimate with Holliday. However, this estimate could skyrocket in a few months if Hollday finishes out the season strong and leads the Cardinals to a pennant or even a World Series title. A big factor in how much money Holliday ultimately earns will be the Yankees, Mets, and Red Sox. If Scott Boras can somehow get these three teams to enter a bidding war for Holliday, then all bets are off. This contract could become MASSIVE.

Thoughts?

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7 comments:

Brad Templeman said...

I think any AL team should be concerned about giving him a monster contract, given his lack of success, even in a short period of time.

He's got an unbelievable chance going into the postseason, all he has to do is look at what Carlos Beltran did in 2004 and see how much he can make with a great postseason, it'll be huge.

YHW said...

I think you hit it on the nose with the Beltran comparison. Or, to a lesser extent, Manny Ramirez. Ramirez was in everyone's dog house..then pushed LA with a huge August/Sept, and into October. And he got rewarded pretty much on those 3 months.

Same goes with Beltran. Had an unbelievable time with the Stros, got to the World Series, and got a monstorous Contract.

However, I don't think it'll be as big as we expect. He's a big time player, but I think the Carlos Lee deal will be closer. Beltran plays GG center to go along with his offense. Same went with Wells at the time of the extension.

But going into his age 30 season, it'll be interesting.

I really imagine a 5 year 100 mil.

I truly believe the Cards will re-sign him. It's the protection they've needed for Pujols for a long time.

Jorge Says No! said...

Olney doesn't think the Cards will re-sign Holliday...I can see this two fold:

1. Cards don't sign Holliday and save their money to re-sign DeRosa and save for the inevitable Pujols extnesion in 2011

2. Cards re-sign Holliday with the hopes that they will convince Pujols to stick around at a cheaper rate and that they can realistically compete for a title in each of the next 5 years (at least)

Thoughts?

YHW said...

I think the latter is more probable. The cards really haven't had a hitter behind Pujols since Edmonds in what..04? 05? THats 4-5 years without protection. They got it in Holliday. Derosa is a strong player, but Holliday is often in the MVP talks. Pujols seems like a guy who would sign an extension for cheaper, if the Cards follow through and build a strong team behind him.

Anonymous said...

Look for the Mariners to be a serious contender for his services. They need a cleanup hitter and with Lopez, Branyan, Ichiro and Gutierrez hitting around Holliday, that's more than enough offense to back the pitching staff led by Felix and Bedard. They'd still have money to dangle in front of another big name free agent, even after extending Felix, re-signing Bedard, and signing Holliday.

Bedard would sign for about the same as what he made this year, Holliday would eat up most of the money saved on Washburn and Batista, and whatever's left would get Felix close to $10MM a season, they'd eat the remaining difference and jack the payroll up if they couldn't trade Kenji or Silva to save some bucks. The reality is that they are two years away from clearing off Kenji and Silva from their books which is more than enough for Felix's extension. Beltre will re-sign for about $8MM-$9MM, which would save another $4MM to help give Branyan a raise and to pay some salary arb. cases. They'll also save $2MM on Betancourt and Chavez each, which will help pay for a new SS or to re-sign Wilson.

The Mariners will also be able to add payroll with the team coming off a winning season and attendance looking to go up next year. Especially if they bring back Felix, Bedard, Beltre, and Branyan on extensions, plus sign a guy like Holliday.

Maybe they don't get Holliday and they look to trade for Crawford or another solid LF, but the Mariners will be making moves this offseason to fill LF, SS, and 1B with Branyan going to DH and Griffey becoming a part-time DH and PH.

Jorge Says No! said...

I don't know if Holliday will actually take this into consideration, but his performance in the AL this season was far below his performance in the NL this season. Will that difference make him shy away from the American League?

Anonymous said...

I think Holliday is like any other sports star, he believes in his ability or he wouldn't have got this far. I don't think he would feel overwhelmed about playing in Seattle... I think you have to attribute his numbers to a slow start, playing with a bunch of AAA/AAAA players, and not having to face Felix, Bedard, and Washburn pitching lights out would also add to his average. If he hits 3 more homeruns in the first half and knocks 15 more hits around the diamond before the All-Star game, then Holliday isn't even mentioned. 15 hits at that point of the season would have been .030 and made him a .315 hitter. I think the Mariners are 1 or 2 legitimate studs away from being the favorite for the west and Holliday knows it from playing against them. He saw what they're cooking up and he has to feel he's a difference maker that can put the M's over the top. Success and arrogance go hand-in-hand and at some point he has to think enough of himself to realize that a 5-6 WAR player doesn't fall from the trees every day. Signing him doesn't throw off the Mariners plan as Ackley is probably 2 years away from starting for the Mariners (I still think he'll be a middle infielder by the end of the season), by then Holliday could be moved to 1B or Ichiro would be close to retiring. Saunders can be the 4th OF if they don't want Langerhans, if they do want Langerhans, than they can send Saunders to AAA to learn 1B, just so they have options. Either way, making room for a 5+ WAR hitter is easy and the money is definitely there. Maybe Jose Reyes, J.J. Hardy, Alcides Escobar, Stephen Drew, or Brandon Phillips will become the answer at SS through trade and that alone would make the Mariners the AL West favorite. In the end Holliday knows that Seattle is in a winnable division and would probably enjoy the seclusion that comes with playing in the NW as he thrived in that environment in Denver!