“Flags may fly forever, but the only sure winners in this deal are Matt Holliday and Scott Boras.”
If you think Holliday got fair market value for his services, how is he a sure winner? Yes, if he declines with age quicker than expected, the Cardinals will be throwing away a lot of money. If he maintains his current level longer than expected, Holliday will be getting less than his services are worth. In the end, the risk seems to balance itself out nicely in the middle.
yeah, this deal seems to be pretty neutral, with Holliday and Boras barely coming out ahead imo. the interesting thing to see in the next year or two will be how this affects Pujols returning after ’11
A bit. It’s not a terrible deal… but from this vantage point, I think it’s neutral at best for St. Louis… and we’ll see what happens if/when Pujols resigns how that affects the Cardinals ability to field a team. They basically have to win now. And if Holliday drops off at all…
Scottwood: I generally do the 85%*162 playing time thing… I got it from Tango, but perhaps you read it in my earlier posts, too. I’m being a bit generous to the Cards and Holliday, perhaps… the 0.5 WAR decline phase includes decreased playing time with age. My earlier projection for Holliday linked above had him at about 4.3 WAR… it’s in the same vicinity, and further supports the “should have given a discount” point.
4.5 WAR is too low for Holliday. He’s never even come close to that total and yes I understand the whole “regression” thing. And I wouldn’t start deducting the 0.5 WAR after the first year. Ask yourself this, do you think Vegas would feel comfortable setting Matt Holliday’s 2010 WAR Over/Under at 4.5? My guess is that they would get lopsided action on the “over”.
So this is why the Braves were dumping salary left and right…wait, StL, not Atl?
I’m wondering if you’re selling Holliday short, Matt. He has been worth at least 36 batting runs in each of the last 4 seasons, and you’re granting him only 29. He just turned 30, last year was a transition year for him, and he still proved that he could hit outside of Coors. Based on wRC+, his offense has been 40% better than average even when Coors is controlled for. He’s still in the weaker league, facing iffy pitching from the Cubs, Brewers, Reds, Astros, and Pirates. It seems to me that he’ll be worth over 5 marginal wins for at least the first couple years.
This is a somewhat myopic analysis, although the numerical stuff (while standard for Fangraphs) does add some value, so to speak. The thing is, the Cardinals are built to win now, with Carpenter, Wainwright, and Pujols in or near their primes and La Russa near the end of his career. Furthermore, they have a lot of average-to-good players in the lineup, but (barring a return to ’08 form for Ludwick or marked improvement from Rasmus) no other very good or great hitters besides Pujols. Apart from 3B — at which they have a reasonable (and cheap) in-house in Freese — LF was their only way to upgrade offensively and give other teams some reason to pitch to Pujols.
I think the Cardinals are probably well aware that the latter years of this contract may hurt a little, but at least it isn’t backloaded. I think this was such an ideal fit for the team in terms of Holliday’s position and skill set that looking at it simply in terms of projected WAR values (especially when they are not out of line with the salary) is not likely to yield the most meaningful analysis. Of course, these instant contract or trade analysis pieces are one of Fangraphs’ specialties. However, the fact that the writers sometimes overlook the team-specific context (or are simply not that familiar with the organization’s overall situation compared to what a local writer or team-specific blogger would be) is certainly a limitation.
In short, it’s a big commitment and it carries some risk, but this is one of those rare cases in which the Cardinals decided the risk was worth a big-time deal, and I think their reasons for making the deal are pretty sound overall.
That said, is LF the Cardinal’s only real weakness? They certainly didn’t have much protection outside of Holliday last year. No-one on this site actually believed Cashman when he said the Yankees had no interest in Holliday at the right price. Cash-ninja meme or not, that is a GM’s job.
Anyway, shifting to the team that actually signed him, I really don’t think that those people who are judging this deal harshly are doing so for any other reason than that the Cardinals slightly overpaid for Holliday’s performance, completely ignoring the possibility of injury, excepting the fact that he probably won’t play 150 games towards the end of his contract, and having essentially given him a no-trade clause as a free bonus. True, much or most of these things are the risks any team takes in signing a major free agent to a long term contract. That doesn’t make this contract any more of a “win” for the Cardinals, though.
Yes, we’ll see, but I am quite certain that they made this deal with (a) the idea that they will make a run for Pujols and (b) a specific plan (or set of plans) for how to make the dollars work while (hopefully) keeping both players on the roster for years to come.
They’ve been plotting this for at least a year (since the first trade talks for Holliday possibly coming over from the Rockies were reported in late ’08). Mozeliak and Co. are not stupid. In short, I am sure they didn’t trade for Holliday without some sense that they would (a) be able to resign Holliday long-term and (b) sign Pujols to an extension as well. And they had to know it wouldn’t be cheap.
You misunderstood the “only real weakness” part. I was talking about the Yankees. The only difference between the hypothetical situation where the Cardinals have to outbid the Yankees and reality is what Cashman is telling the press.
“That said, is LF the Cardinal’s only real weakness?”
Not necessarily, but it was the clearest position at which they could upgrade. They have above-average players at 1st and C, relatively cheap and roughly league-average players (and possibly better) at 2B, SS, and CF, and a mid-priced RF who is capable of being either average-ish (as in 2009) or well-above average (as in 2008). The rotation is a strength. The bullpen is…not horrible, at least, with some potential upside.
P.S. Matt, the generalizations in the latter paragraph weren’t specifically directed at you. This was a useful post, and I appreciate it. Time will tell if it was a wise move, but looking at it now, I think it is a calculated risk that makes a lot of sense when you take into account where the team is at this point and what/where they needed to upgrade.
The “overpay” is in the unnecessary 7th year, in my opinion. It’s not an overpay on a per year basis, but there was absolutely no reason to provide the 7th year. The Cards should have called Boras’ bluff and told him to tell Holliday to go to Baltimore if that’s really what he wanted to do.
I think you make a fair point, but on the flip side, the Cardinals’ window isn’t going to close after 2010 or 2011 either. There will be other players to resign, pay arb raises, etc. In 2014, they’ll still owe MH a huge sum of money, with multiple years remaining. (And he better stay sharp defensively, as they have no place to put him.)
I guess when you put it all together, this is just a completely unbalanced deal: they gave MH the $$, they gave him the years, and they gave him a no-trade. It just seems excessive.
You’re right, it won’t totally close after 2011, but they will not still have the 1-2 of Pujols/Holliday along with the 1-2 of Carpenter/Wainwright any longer (though they could have three of four). I can see a decline toward the middle of the decade, but it’s a calculated gamble.
My question is, What would you have recommended them doing instead of signing Holliday?
I’ve been pointing to the research in this article since it came out as a possible redeeming factor to the now-realized Holliday contract. Basically, players whose careers run 5000 or more PAs and who play 10 or more seasons (which, admittedly, Holliday hasn’t done, although given this talent, injury history, and contract he is likely to do), peak offensively between 30-33 instead of the usual 26-28.
Of course, Holliday is entering those potentially peak years. Take that for what it is worth.
This is going to look like a good contract a year from now, and a terrible one five years from now. This kind of deal risks putting St. Louis into the same situation Houston is in, especially once you add on Pujols and all the other contracts they’re going to have to worry about over the next seven years.
I’ve read the FG primer on UZR and have a little familiarity, but I’m still somewhat of a novice. I don’t quite understand why being a +4 LF translates to “costing” your team runs. Why does the positional adjustment appear to make Holliday a “negative” defensive commodity despite his fairly strong defensive metrics? It appears that a very good LF would still be a negative commodity out there. Is that true? Thanks.
Here’s the difference between the Cardinals signing Holliday versus the Yankers getting Granderson…team impact. Looking at WAR puts the player in a bit of a vaccum, but I have to think the Cardinals lineup can improve overall simply by adding MH. As stocked as the Yankees are, Granderson doesn’t add much more than his individual WAR…and actually I’d argue a difference between ‘replacement level’ values for each player based on the supporting casts.
I know it isn’t quantitative, and the idea of “protection” isn’t accepted as truth, but my gut tells me paying him “average” money for his individual production will be a positive value for the team in total. (Offering the contract based on “gut” wouldn’t have been very wise however!)
ONLY factoring in players still on the market, and assuming they have about 5MM left to spend in addition to the 17MM Holliday commands in 2010 in terms of 2010 commitments. I’m completely ignoring 2011, since the only player who would be guaranteed beyond 2010 would be Chapman.
Sign Aroldis Chapman.
Wait for Damon’s price to drop, since the market for OF is pretty much depleted and the Yankees don’t need him, and then sign Johnny Damon to a low dollar 1 year contract with incentives and an option. It happened last year with Giambi and Abreu; it will happen this year with Damon (unless, of course, Sabean overpays).
Then sign one of Felipe Lopez or Joe Crede. Or, if there’s enough money left, sign Ben Sheets and super-bolster the pitching.
Just one half-assed way to pull off a smart offseason.
Agreed. As a Cards’ fan, guaranteeing years 6 and 7 hurts a lot (would have been very happy w/ 5 for high 80 – low 90 MMs), but there is a lot of time between now and 2015 and getting Holliday’s production in 2010-2013 for less than the 2009 cost of Glaus + Khalil Greene is enticing.
At least the team is spending its precious $$on the elite talent available (best FA on the market, etc) as opposed to the previous 4/41M for Lohse and other such mid-level overpays.
As far as the contract goes, whether we overpaid or not doesn’t seem to be the question. It’s HOW MUCH we overpaid. A lot of Cardinal fans wouldn’t mind shelling out big bucks to core players as long as we can still field a competitive team. This wasn’t a Soriano-type contract, it was a Beltran-type contract, and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect similar value from Holliday as the Mets expected from Beltran. We really only overpaid by $1mil per year on a contract that’s only 1 year too long. With Boras negotiating, that’s a veritable coup d’etat.
My question is how a Pujols-Holliday-Rasmus/Ludwick (Raswick?) lineup would compare to the Pujols-Rolen-Edmonds MV3 lineup of the mid-Aughts. If I wanted to break down the on-base averages and power potential, what do I do?
I think it’s a tradeoff in terms of risk that they are willing to take. Not doing something and having this team remain in the 88-90 win range with a pretty good but not great lineup while Pujols, Carpenter, and Wainwright are still in their primes also has its risks.
You can’t be great every season unless you have Yankees/Red Sox money, but I think it is ok to go (relatively) all-in for stretches and accept that there may be a price to pay down the road. It happened in ’07 when Rolen and Edmonds neared the end of their contracts, and they were able to bounce back relatively quickly.
Aw, that’s just a low blow on the Braves. I’m not over the events of this offseason even a little bit…
But to continue what you were saying a bit, -3 defensively might be a bit harsh too. He’s managed to overcome the positional adjustment and be a plus two out of the last three years – although, I’m not sure exactly what effect leaving Coors would have on that.
Anyway, I think it’d be safe to say that Holliday will at least be a wash defensively in a couple of the contract years.
I know that there are positional adjustments, but I guess I’m asking whether I’m interpreting them correctly. Holliday, by playing LF 4.5 runs better than the average LF, still plays badly enough to cost his team 3 runs? I know we’re splitting hairs, but it’s something I’ve wondered about re: the adjustments for sometime now. Thanks for responding.
It’s not really that a +4.5 LF is playing badly and costing his team runs. It’s that he’s playing a position that requires less skill than most, so there is a bigger pool of people who can play it. That makes his OFFENSE (and his defense) easier to replace and therefore less valuable. I think the reason they attach the positional adjustment to defense instead of offense has to do with the relative variation of the two from year to year, but check the glossary link (at top) for a detailed discussion of WAR and the positional adjustment. The positional adjustments tell you that a CF or 3b with average defense is worth 10 runs more than an average LF with the same offensive contribution OR that the LF has to contribute 10 extra runs on offense to equal what those other position players produce with bat+glove (assuming each is average for his position) OR that the LF better be Carl-Crawford good in the field if his bat is more average.
You’re free to think whatever you want. Speaking for myself, I think we’re all just trying to figure it out the best we can based on the evidence we have — I asked around to people “in the know” at the beginning of the offseason, and their estimation was $4.4. Some people are now looking at the average of signings so far and going with other figures like $3.5. Some of us are going to be wrong, but we aren’t simply “suiting out bias.” We’re going with our best interpretation of the evidence.
Thanks guys. That makes a bit more sense. I think what I find difficult to wrap my head around is the “negative” value attached. Off the top of my head, I guess I would make the easiest positions to play, like DH I guess, a value of 0 runs (rather than -12.5) and then add value to that rather than “detract” value from players on the right side of the spectrum. But I think I get why that can’t be done: your “average” defensive player is better than your “average” defensive LF (or DH for that matter), so you make 0=average and adjust on both sides accordingly. Still seems odd, but I certainly can’t think of a better way to manage it. Thanks again.
I don’t see how Matt Holliday’s worth that much money, not with about average defense. His road hitting line is only .284/.353/.454/.808. Admittedly, his numbers have been affected by playing a lot of road games in LA and SD, two major pitchers parks, but St. Louis’s park plays more like a pitcher’s park yet he hit like he was in Arlington while there.
Can he continue doing that? I have to think the adrenaline rush helped him out there. For example, Manny joined the Dodgers and hit .413/.515/.825/1.340 in LA in 2008, a notorious pitcher’s park. In 2009, Manny still hit well there but fell to .259/.373/.525/.898, which is much closer to his career road line of .314/.408/.585/.994 and below it.
Holliday as noted above is a career .284/.353/.454/.808 hitter on the road but hit .377/.442/.677/1.119 in St. Louis in 2009. Bill James Handbook rates the Cards stadium as 80 out of 100 in terms of HR and is even tougher on RH with a 78. It is clearer a pitcher’s park that Holliday beat in 2009 in limited ABs, but I think he’s going to fall back to his career mean with time in the Cards uniform. Even if he bump up his road to account for SF, LA, and SD, he is still around mid-800 OPS: good, but not $17M for 7 seasons good.
Will Clark had a similar run when he came to StL to finish out the season when Big Mac was injured.
Certainly Holliday isn;t going to hit .377, but he’ll likely hit better than .284. A “road average” includes playing in variuos ballparks, with different hitting backdrops, lighting, and other park effects. Hitting in Busch Stadium for 81 games isn’t going to be the same as hitting in 15 other ballparks for 81 games.
That’s without mentioning all of the other “comforts of home” that lead to a higher level of “comfortability” (to play on the Bud Light commercials).
Comment by CircleChange11 — January 9, 2010 @ 2:12 am