The puzzling numbers of Holliday's deal

Updated: January 6, 2010, 2:44 PM ET
By Buster Olney
The Cardinals finished their negotiations for Matt Holliday, Joe Strauss writes. Holliday was an MVP candidate in Colorado and he performed exceptionally for the Cardinals in the last nine weeks of last season, giving St. Louis a devastating two-man punch in the middle of its lineup.

That said, the news of the Cardinals' seven-year deal is stunning to many in rival front offices. "Who were they bidding against?" asked one GM. "If the Red Sox, with their money, offered him $82.5 million, and then pulled out of the running, then why go higher than that? They [the Cardinals] look like they spent about $30 million more than they needed to."

Said another executive: "I guess that will end the collusion talk."

Part of the rivals' confusion over the Cardinals' deal is that from the outside looking in, it would seem to put the team into a position in which they would have to offer Albert Pujols a deal much higher than the record-setting contract (for St. Louis) that they just gave Holliday. "What is it going to cost them to keep Pujols now? Thirty million a year?" asked another high-ranking executive. "After this contract, he wouldn't be out of line to ask for that, because he's the best player in the game."

Holliday is exactly one day older than Pujols, and both turn 30 in the next 10 days. Pujols' contract runs out after the 2011 season. This means the Cardinals are headed down one of two roads.

Route A: They are prepared to pay something in the range of $43 million to $47 million annually to two players who will be past their 32nd birthdays, from 2012 forward.

Or ...

Route B: They won't sign Pujols.