Questioning Holliday’s deal with Cardinals

Questions and answers on the Matt Holliday contract:

Why did the Cardinals give Holliday seven years?

I’m just trying to imagine the negotiation between

Holliday’s agent, Scott Boras, and the Cardinals’

general manager, John Mozeliak.

Boras: “You need to separate

yourself.”

Mozeliak: “Who am I bidding against?”

Boras: “Multiple teams. Mystery

teams.”

Mozeliak: “Seven years then.”

OK, it wasn’t that simple; these things never are. The

Cardinals will say they caught a “break” on the average

annual value of Holliday’s seven-year deal — $17.1

million, or about $16 million in present-day value when factoring

in deferrals. That is a win of sorts, considering that Holliday

wanted at least $18 million per season.

But seven years?

The contract will cover Holliday from ages 30 to 36 —

his late prime, then post-prime. Holliday is a hard worker and

tremendous physical specimen; those are not the issues. It’s

just that A) deals of this length rarely work to the club’s

benefit and B) the Cardinals did not appear to be seriously pushed

by other suitors.

The Orioles were involved, no matter how much they deny it,

but they would have needed to make a monster offer to persuade

Holliday to leave St. Louis.

The Angels and Yankees never appeared serious on Holliday.

The Red Sox made an early run. The Mets signed Jason Bay.

Sure looks like the Cardinals bid mostly against themselves.

Will the Holliday deal help the Cardinals keep Albert

Pujols?

In theory, yes. But I’m not totally convinced.

The Holliday signing should end the debate over the

commitment of Cardinals ownership, a commitment that Pujols and

others had questioned. But the size of the deal also will present

new challenges for the franchise going forward.

The Cardinals undoubtedly intend to sign Pujols to a monster

contract — 10 years, $200 million? — before he reaches

free agency in the 2011-12 offseason. But if that happens, Pujols

and Holliday will earn between $35 and $40 million combined

annually. And the Cardinals’ payroll has yet to top $100

million.

Clearly, the Cardinals have a plan; they know that Pujols

will ask, “Can you build a competitive team around Matt and

I?” Right-hander Chris Carpenter is under club control

through 2012, right-hander Adam Wainwright through ’13. But

this game of, “Show me” is not over.

Should Holliday have stayed in Colorado?

It would be difficult to argue now that the answer is,

“yes.”

Yes, Holliday was happy in Colorado. The Rockies offered him

a four-year extension at $18 million per season, a higher average

than he received from the Cardinals. They probably would have gone

to a fifth year, but that would have made Holliday a free agent

again at 34.

Boras does not like taking players in that age range to the

open market; that is one reason he accepted a one-year deal for

third baseman Adrian Beltre, who can be a free agent again at 31.

Holliday will be a hero in St. Louis, one of the most adoring

and forgiving baseball towns. Yes, he got traded twice after

rejecting the Rockies’ offer, but all’s well that ends

well.

I doubt Holliday has any complaints.

Did Boras win or lose?

Depends upon your perspective.

On one hand, Boras got Holliday only two-thirds of the

guarantee that he negotiated for free-agent first baseman Mark

Teixeira in an even worse economy last offseason — this,

after the agent repeatedly compared Holliday to Teixeira, saying

both were complete players.

Teams evidently did not agree.

Teixeira is a switch-hitter; Holliday bats right-handed.

Teixeira is an elite defender; Holliday is not. Last but not least,

Teixeira was the subject of a bidding war between the Red Sox and

Yankees; Holliday did not benefit from such a competition.

A comparison between Holliday and Bay reflects more

positively on Boras. Holliday’s guarantee will be nearly

twice that of Bay’s, mostly because his deal is three years

longer (their average salaries are nearly the same).

Holliday, most baseball people agree, is the better player.

But almost twice as good? No way.