Before the 2009 season began, people wondered if Matt Holliday was simply a good hitter, who became a great hitter because he played half of his games at Coors Field. During his time with the Rockies, Holliday was one of the most feared hitters in baseball and routinely put up numbers that seemed possible only in video games.
However, the 2009 season was going to be huge for Holliday.
In a move designed for the future, the Rockies traded Holliday to the Oakland Athletics for three players. Finally we would know if Holliday was just a great hitter at Coors Field or if he could perform at an optimal level elsewhere.
During his tenure with the A's, Holliday performed like so many of us thought he would once he was away from Coors Field: above average. Holliday put up nice numbers, but they were nothing close to his production with the Rockies.
But just a few days before the trading deadline, Matt Holliday was traded from the lifeless A's to the upstart Cardinals and the rest, as they say, is history. Since arriving in St. Louis, Holliday has been absolutely amazing: .386, 12 homers, 61 hits in 160 ABs, and a God like 1.143 OPS.
What will Holliday's amazing stretch with the Cardinals mean to his free agent candidacy? Let's take a look.
The Case for Holliday
Fantastic offensive player
The funny part is that I'm not sure that the word fantastic does justice to just how good of a hitter Matt Holliday has become. Holliday can do it all on the offensive side: hit for power, get on base, steal bases, drive in runs, etc. Take a look at these stats:
- Since 2005, Holliday has never hit lower than .307.
- .319 lifetime batting average
- Holliday scored 100+ runs in each season from 2006-2008
- Holliday hit over 30 home runs in 2006 and 2007 and has a realistic chance to hit 30+ in 2009
- Holliday's career OBP is a gaudy .388
- Lifetime OPS of .937
- Stolen at least 10 bases in every season since 2005.
Even though Holliday is known for his offensive ability, whatever team that signs Holliday would actually be acquiring a pretty good defensive player. Since 2004, Holliday has only produced a negative UZR once (2006) and has a lifetime UZR/150 of 6.3. There are signs that Holliday's range has slipped from an elite level (10+), but his range still makes him a well above average defensive left fielder (6.0).
Keep in mind that Holliday is only 29 years old. You know what that means: Holliday is just entering his "prime years" and should be able to perform at a optimal level for years to come.
The Case against Holliday
Can he hit away from Coors Field?
Until Holliday is able to consistently produce away from Coors Field, this question will continue to be thrown out there by baseball people. As I mentioned before, Holliday has certainly helped his cause because of his great performance with the Cardinals, but people will always take note of how gaudy his Coors Field numbers were and how much his stats declined when he was on the road (granted, Holliday's numbers were still very good).
The real Matt Holliday: first half or second half?
It would have been interesting to see what kind of numbers Holliday would have put up if he remained with the Athletics for the full season.
Remember that Holliday only hit 11 home runs in 346 at bats with the A's, so by all accounts, it looked like his numbers we're taking a nose dive. There are a million different reasons why Holliday all of a sudden became one of the best hitters in baseball again once he left the A's: The Cardinals are in a pennant chase, the NL is much weaker, Holliday simply heated up during the summer, etc.
But I ask you this: which is the real Matt Holliday—the first half version or the second half?
At this point, you have to say that Holliday is in a class all by himself on the free agent market. He is the only hitter on the market, who has clearly established himself as a superstar player. Even with all the questions surrounding Holliday and Coors, Holliday's numbers speak volumes.
In my opinion, he's the only guy on the free agent market this offseason who has put himself in a position for a deal exceeding $90 million bucks. There is no other player on the market this offseason that offers Holliday's combination of production, ability, and age. The man is in a class all by himself at the moment.
(7 years/$110 million)
Here are some comparable contracts:
- Carlos Beltran (7 years/$119 million)
- Vernon Wells (7 years/$105 million)
- Carlos Lee (6 years/$100 million)
- Torii Hunter (5 years/$90 million)
After the 2007 season, I thought there was a legitimate chance that Holliday could receive a contract that exceeded $150 million. However, given the state of the economy, I'm going to stay conservative on my first estimate with Holliday.
However, this estimate could skyrocket in a few months if Holliday finishes out the season strong and leads the Cardinals to a pennant or even a World Series title. A big factor in how much money Holliday ultimately earns will be the Yankees, Mets, and Red Sox.
If Scott Boras can somehow get these three teams to enter a bidding war for Holliday, then all bets are off. This contract could become massive.
(Follow Jorge Says No! on Twitter!)