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Questioning Holliday's deal with Cardinals

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Ken Rosenthal

Ken Rosenthal has been the FOXSports.com's Senior MLB Writer since August 2005. He appears weekly on MLB on FOX, FOX Sports Radio and MLB Network. He's a member of the Baseball Writers Association of America. Follow him on Twitter.

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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.

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