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Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Big-money contract likely awaits Holliday

By Jerry Crasnick
ESPN.com

Considering Matt Holliday's choice of representation, the chances of him signing a long-term contract with Colorado are as realistic as … well … the Rockies winning 21 of 22 games to storm into the World Series for the first time in franchise history.

Then again, the baseball people in Colorado have become conditioned to believing the improbable is attainable. So they're about to give it a shot.

Matt Holliday
Matt Holliday batted .289 with five home runs in 11 postseason games this past October.
Along with filling some bullpen holes and determining a course of action at second base and catcher, the Rockies will explore the possibility of signing Holliday, the runner-up in the voting for National League MVP, to a multiyear contract this winter. Colorado's owners, Dick and Charlie Monfort, have been up front about the team's desire to keep Holliday in Denver, and local newspaper reports say the Rockies are prepared to offer the star outfielder a deal in the four-year, $60 million range.

While Holliday has been great for Colorado, Colorado has been equally kind to him. In his first four major league seasons, Holliday has a .364 batting average, .425 on base percentage and .662 slugging percentage at Coors Field. On the road, the breakdown is a more pedestrian .273/.333/.448.

But Holliday isn't eligible for free agency until after the 2009 season, and his agent, Scott Boras, has a history of going year-to-year with players through the salary arbitration process. So what's it going to be?

General manager Dan O'Dowd didn't return a call seeking comment, but Boras told ESPN.com that he and Holliday are keeping an open mind.

"Matt's not in any way demanding a long-term contract,'' Boras said. "He's happy if he goes year by year. But if it's something the Rockies would want to approach him with, he enjoys playing in Colorado. Dan and I have had some conversations about Matt, and we both agree he's a franchise player. We have a variety of options to look at.''

In an interview with Rocky Mountain News columnist Dave Krieger in July, Holliday said his decision to hire Boras should not be taken as a sign that he's obsessed with chasing the highest possible contract or leaving Denver the moment the opportunity presents itself.

"I hired Scott Boras because I thought he has the player's best interest at heart, he's very intelligent and I felt like he's the best at what he does,'' Holliday said. "I didn't hire Scott to go get me the biggest contract in the history of baseball or to get me out of Colorado or to go get me a huge market. He works for me. I don't work for him.

I hired [agent] Scott Boras because I thought he has the player's best interest at heart, he's very intelligent and I felt like he's the best at what he does. … [But] he works for me. I don't work for him.

--Matt Holliday

"When the time comes, whatever happens, and I'm a free agent or the Rockies offer me an extension, I will be the one making the decision. [Boras] won't be pushing me any way. I'll be telling him what I think is best for my family and what I want to do.''

We'll see how much of an independent thinker Holliday is when the final numbers are on the table. Either way, his breakthrough performance this season is going to earn him a lot of money. Holliday made $4.4 million in 2007, his first year as a salary arbitration-eligible player.

The record for a one-year contract signed by a player in Holliday's current "four-plus'' service category belongs to Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, who made $10 million in 2000. Like Holliday, Marlins third baseman Miguel Cabrera is in his second year of salary arbitration this winter. But he's starting from a much higher base than Holliday, after making $7.4 million last season.

There's only one certainty for Holliday: If he stays healthy and keeps producing the way he did this season, the price will keep going up. That's the one economic constant in baseball.

Jerry Crasnick covers baseball for ESPN.com. His book "License To Deal" was published by Rodale. Click here to order a copy. Jerry can be reached via e-mail.