Let the Dominoes Fall: Matt Holliday Signing Could Instigate Mega-Trade Scenario

Joel KochSenior Analyst IDecember 21, 2009

BOSTON - OCTOBER 11:  Mike Lowell #25 of the Boston Red Sox runs to first after he hits a RBI single in the eighth inning against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in Game Three of the ALDS during the 2009 MLB Playoffs at Fenway Park on October 11, 2009 in Boston,  Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

What we know right now is that there is one team pursuing Matt Holliday.

Despite Scott Boras' best antics, everyone that follows baseball knows only the St. Louis Cardinals are in the running for Holliday.

Why hasn't Holliday signed yet?


Boras won't let Holliday sign until they have exhausted every option and gotten the offer they want from the Cardinals. In other words, he wants to prolong this until he gets his way.

Boras is like a whiny little child in the grocery store line wanting a candy bar. He'll whine, cry, scream, and fight until that candy bar is his...even if the client looks bad in the process. Boras is the face of what is wrong with the sport of baseball.

The good news is that teams aren't playing his game anymore. The Alex Rodriguez contract saga, Kenny Rogers firing Boras, the Manny Ramirez contract saga, Johnny Damon's contract saga, and the Matt Holliday mess have all added up and have started to make Boras look bad.

Will players continue to use him as their agent? Oh yeah, for sure. He gets the big bucks, but he is souring more owners and general managers than usual now and could easily get shunned by every team (see Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim).

Onward and upward though. My Boras complaints are over—just wanted to get that off of my chest.

Let us assume that Holliday re-signs with the Cardinals. What figure? Who knows? It'll be a great amount, and as long as the contract is front-loaded or the yearly salary is an unchanging number throughout the contract, I'll be happy with it.

For this article, we don't worry about Holliday's contract. No, we worry about contracts that seem to be "unmovable."

This article is dedicated to a trade that is just as, or even more, complex than the recent Roy Halladay blockbuster. It involves four teams, spanning four divisions. Ready for this? You'll have to keep up because it is vastly complicated.

The four teams involved are the Kansas City Royals, Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, and the St. Louis Cardinals.

The players: Gary Matthews Jr., Mike Lowell, David DeJesus, Ryan Ludwick, and two Minor League players.

The Angels are looking to get rid of Matthews and want a run producer to replace the departed Vladimir Guerrero.

The Royals need a center fielder that can replace Coco Crisp. The Red Sox want to rid themselves of Lowell.

The Cardinals have just signed Holliday (remember from above) and need to cut some salary from the books.

This deal does all of that. Here is the deal in its entirety:

Angels receive: Ludwick

Royals receive: Matthews, $9.75 million ($3.75 million for 2010, $6 million for 2011) from the Angels, $2.25 million from the Cardinals

Red Sox receive: DeJesus, C Bryan Anderson (STL), $700K from the Royals, $500K from the Angels

Cardinals receive: RHP Tommy Mendoza (LAA), Mike Lowell, $10 million from the Red Sox

Okay, so maybe it isn't as complicated as I thought. But since it took me more than an hour to try to make all of the money work and get all of the players figured out, it just seemed like it.

Anyway, here's a team-by-team breakdown.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

The Angels need to rid themselves of Matthews and need a run-producing bat. Ludwick is a corner outfielder, something the team needs, who is an average defender. According to FanGraphs, Ludwick has been worth 7.5 wins over replacement for the Cardinals in 2008-09.

While Ludwick's salary is up in the air because he is in his second year of arbitration, he will still cost less than Matthews would make in 2010. I guessed Ludwick's salary at $7.5 million, and going on that, the Angels would pay $750K more in this scenario than they would pay Matthews.

In retrospect, I think any team would enjoy paying less than a million more to rid their team of a problem and add a player of value. Mendoza is a part of this deal because of Ludwick. If you would look at just the Cardinals and Angels, the deal would be Mendoza for Ludwick straight up.

Kansas City Royals

The Royals are in need of a center fielder. They have DeJesus and need to get rid of him. This deal fulfills both needs.

Matthews hasn't been highly rated by FanGraphs over the past two seasons, but that can also be accredited to him not playing much. With Torii Hunter on board and a very full outfield, Matthews hasn't been needed.

In Kansas City, that would different. With a smaller outfield, Matthews would be able to cover his ground far easier. Because the Royals would only be paying $11 million of Matthews' salary over two seasons, it isn't like they would be expecting him to live up to a high-profile contract.

Because of the reduced rate, the Royals can actually pay Matthews like the player that he is, not that he isn't, as the Angels are currently doing. Of course, if Matthews shows improvement, the Royals can always flip him to another team to rid themselves of his 2011 salary and receive a good prospect in return.

When you look at this deal, the Royals would be trading DeJesus for Matthews. Not a bad deal at all.

Of course, money can always change an outlook. The Royals would be losing $4 million of DeJesus' salary (remember the $700K the Royals are sending to the Red Sox), but would be gaining $5 million in salary from Matthews, plus would pay for the $500K bonus Matthews would get for being traded.

All in all, the Royals would be paying an extra $1.5 million in 2010 and would be paying $6 million in 2011. Of course, in all fairness, DeJesus' 2011 option is $6 million, so that would even out.

Boston Red Sox

Lowell has been told a few different times that he needs to go. The Red Sox tried very hard to sign Mark Teixeira, then traded for Victor Martinez and Casey Kotchman, which shifted Kevin Youkillis to third base. The cake topper: The Red Sox traded Lowell to the Rangers for Max Ramirez before thumb surgery derailed the deal.

This is a perfect time for Lowell to be traded, while bringing in a useful player. DeJesus is a Jacoby Ellsbury clone, with slightly more power. As a fourth outfielder, DeJesus could be very useful, playing the entire outfield and serving as a better defensive replacement than Jeremy Hermida.

Speaking of Hermida, the Red Sox could trade him in this scenario to fill another team need.

Again, though, the Red Sox would be paying to rid themselves of Lowell. They would add an extra $1.5 million in salary and would likely buy out DeJesus' 2011 option for $500K. In retrospect, the Red Sox would add a catcher into their system (Anderson) to replace Jason Varitek after 2010.

St. Louis Cardinals

Why would the Cardinals want to trade Ludwick? Well, a couple of reasons. With Holliday back on board, Ludwick would be semi-expendable. He would be making a healthy salary ($7.5 million by my guess), and that salary could be used elsewhere.

The main player to invest the money in: Mark DeRosa. DeRosa is too good of a clubhouse player to not retain. By subtracting Ludwick's salary, the Cardinals would have more than enough to re-sign DeRosa (three years, $22 million with a $5 million salary in 2010) to play a super-utility role.

So why would the Cardinals be interested in Lowell? The obvious reason is they need a veteran third baseman around to help tutor David Freese at the hot corner. They also need an obvious backup to Albert Pujols.

Lowell would serve as a backup to the corner infield, as well as a bat off the bench to serve as a pinch hitter. Lowell would also be a good presence in the clubhouse and be another example for the younger players to watch as he handles himself in a greatly reduced role.

Of course, Lowell is having thumb surgery here soon and won't be fully healthy until the beginning or middle of March. That's a risk to take on, but for a player that has been passed on the depth charts (Anderson) and at a $2 million salary, it would be a well worth it risk.

For the Cardinals, this deal nets them some nice pieces. First off, Lowell would be a strong addition to the club, and Mendoza would add starting pitching depth. Anderson would unclog the catching tunnel, and the team would cut $3.25 million from salary (minus Ludwick, add Lowell, minus the money sent to Kansas City).

Not a bad haul for the team.

The batting order and bench would look like this, assuming DeRosa is retained:
C - Yadier Molina, 1B - Pujols, 2B - Skip Schumaker, 3B - Freese, SS - Brendan Ryan, LF - Holliday, CF - Colby Rasmus, RF - DeRosa/Allen Craig
BENCH: C - Jason LaRue, 1B/3B - Lowell, IF - Julio Lugo, UTIL - DeRosa/Craig, OF - Jon Jay

The defense would be shored up with a platoon of Craig and DeRosa in right field, with DeRosa cycling through positions (mostly second base against a left-handed starter and third base when needed). Jay would be added as a true backup outfielder, giving the Cardinals three natural center fielders on the roster.

That is the deal. Sorry to cliff-hang here a little bit, but snow shoveling calls. What do you think? I want to hear from you. Positive, constructive comments/discussions only, however. Negative Neds need not comment.

Would the Angels make this trade? Would the Royals? Red Sox? Cardinals?

How does each team make out? Positive or negative?

Let's hear from you!


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