Tuesday, December 15, 2009
At what cost, Holliday?
It's not often that I'm nonplussed by the things that baseball teams do, or are said to be thinking about doing. I've seen a lot of strange things in my time. Still, Joe Strauss' story about the Cardinals' efforts to sign Matt Holliday does give me pause.
The Cardinals have intensified discussions with the lead representative for free agent Matt Holliday and on Monday "tweaked" a standing offer they hope will allow them to retain the left fielder for at least eight seasons.
General manager John Mozeliak and agent Scott Boras revisited the framework of the Cardinals' lengthy proposal first tendered last Wednesday. Though both parties refuse to discuss details, the deal is worth around $16 million a season, making it easily the most lucrative deal ever offered by the Cardinals.
Unimpressed by the Cardinals' initial offer, Boras may be increasingly open to an opt-out within the contract. He included just such a clause in the Texas Rangers' 10-year, $252 million deal for Alex Rodriguez. Traded to the Yankees in 2004, Rodriguez exercised the opt-out clause following the 2007 season, eventually re-signing with the Yankees. Boras is also seeking full no-trade protection for Holliday, which would maximize an opt-out's leverage.
Hmmm, let's see here ... eight years, roughly $130 million (so far), an opt-out clause and "full no-trade protection" ... Gee, there's no way this won't work out beautifully for the club, huh?
Seriously, this is why baseball men shouldn't be allowed to watch baseball games. Because sometimes they actually believe what they're seeing. Holliday is an excellent baseball player. He is not the player everyone saw playing for the Cardinals last August and September. He is not the player whose batting line in those months was exactly as good as Albert Pujols'.
In fairness, I do believe the Cardinals know that Holliday isn't as good as Pujols. But if these figures being bandied about are correct, it seems they think Holliday is nearly as good as Pujols.
He's not. There's a top tier of superstars, a tier that includes Pujols and Joe Mauer and Chase Utley and Hanley Ramirez.
There's a second tier that includes Evan Longoria and Ryan Zimmerman and Chone Figgins.
And then comes Holliday and Kevin Youkilis and Carl Crawford.
It's not that Holliday's not worth $16 million. He is. Quite a bit more, in fact. It's that Holliday's not worth $130 million. It's just too much risk for too many years, with too few escape hatches, for a team that doesn't play in the Bronx.
I understand why the Cardinals believe they have to keep Pujols, no matter the cost. But do they really have to take the same approach with a third-tier superstar like Holliday? I mean, no matter the cost?