Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Matt Holliday: Are the Cardinals Making a Mistake?

Is it possible for the Cardinals to re-sign Matt Holliday despite their payroll limitations? It's looking more likely:

The St. Louis Cardinals are taking another swing at free agent slugger Matt

The Cardinals have tweaked their standing offer for the free agent outfielder, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The new proposal is worth around $16 million a season, according to the newspaper.

While Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak wouldn't go into detail about what was said, he did tell the Post-Dispatch that the renewed talks with agent Scott Boras were a good sign.

I'm still torn on this one. Matt Holliday is a fantastic player and would help the Cardinals immensely next season both offensively and defensively. He is the perfect hitter to hit behind Albert Pujols and there' no doubt that if Holliday is on the Cardinals in 2010, then their lineup will be one of the best in the National League. Also, there is the argument (Scott Boras theory) that if the Cardinals re-sign Holliday, then they will have a better chance to sign Albert Pujols to an extension that will hopefully give the team some sort of discount. If there is any truth to this, the Cardinals pursuit of Holliday could be franchise altering.

But on the other hand, how much are the Cardinals willing to commit to Holliday? This is a franchise that has historically had a payroll between $85-$95 million dollars, which will be a problem for the Cardinals moving forward unless ownership is willing to increase payroll. If the Cardinals sign Matt Holliday to a deal that averages $16 million per season, then he and Albert Pujols will take up roughly 1/3rd ($32 million) of the Cardinals payroll through 2011. In addition, after 2011, the Cardinals will have to extend Albert Pujols, who will likely command a contract well north of $20 million annually. It's not out of the realm of possibility to think that by 2012, Holliday and Pujols could command 40-45% of the Cardinals total payroll.

Now lemme ask you this, can a team compete when two players take up such a large portion of their total payroll?

I think it's possible, but it sure makes things very difficult. I know Holliday and Pujols are exceptional players, but even the best decline at some point and it is a significant risk to put so much of the franchise's fortunes into the well being and production of just two players.

If Holliday does indeed accept this offer, then the Cardinals would be one of the favorites to win the National League. However, I have to preach caution about the future economic impact of this deal for the Cardinals. But then again, it's hard to fault the Cardinals for going for it while they have the chance.

If the Cardinals to sign Holliday, hopefully GM John Mozeliak is able to keep the commitment to Holliday as short as possible and arrange the deal in a way that gives the Cardinals some payroll flexibility in the future.

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