Monday, August 03, 2009

Holliday and Boras

Sunday's Post Dispatch featured an article about Matt Holliday. Yes, he of the .606 AVG going into yesterday's game (which was subsequently deflated by his first 'oh-fer' as a Cardinal). The jist of the article was discussing how much Holliday has helped the Cardinals, but the interesting part was the talk about re-signing him.

Money quotes:

Finding the term "rental player" repugnant, team chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. has pledged an all-out attempt to sign Holliday to an extension before he reaches free agency in November. The club minimizes Holliday's rejection of a Rockies proposal that averaged $18 million...

Boras on Saturday called "absurd" any suggestion of pending talks. He also sees ready comparisons with Carlos Beltran's trade from Kansas City to the Houston Astros in 2004 and Mark Teixeira's move from Atlanta to the Los Angeles Angels last July(emphasis mine). Both players landed elsewhere via free agency months after their big-splash trades.

Hoo, Boy.

So what does that really mean?

Beltran and Teixeira were both traded at or near the 31 July deadline; Beltran in 2004, Teixeira in 2007 and 2008. Here are some select numbers they each put up after the trade, and their subsequent contracts:

2004 (KC): 309 Plate appearances, .278/.367/.534, 15 HR 51 RBI
2004 (HOU): 399 PA, .258/.368/.559, 23 HR 53 RBI.
Post Season: 20-46, 8 HR, 14 RBI.

His numbers in Houston were pretty close to what he put up in Kansas City. He hit for a lower average but had more power. His post-season numbers, however, were ridiculous. That post-season, more than anything else, drove the 7 year/$119 million deal he signed with New York (which will pay him $18.5M through 2011)

2007 (TEX) - 335 PA, .297/.397/.524, 13 HR 49 RBI.
2007 (ATL) - 340 PA, .317/.404/.615, 17 HR 56 RBI.
2008 (ATL) - 451 PA, .283/.390/.512, 20 HR 78 RBI.
2008 (LAA) - 234 PA, .358/.449/.632, 13 HR 43 RBI.
Post Season (2008) - 15 AB, .467/.550/.467, 0 HR 1 RBI.

Teixeira was widely accused of sand-bagging in Texas prior to the trade to Atlanta, but the numbers don't quite bear that out. However, he didn't command what he thought he should on the open market, so signed a 1 year deal for $12.5M with the Braves.

His Anaheim numbers look like they declined from his Atlanta ones, until you realize he did that in about half the at-bats he had in Atlanta. His post-season didn't drive the market quite as radically as Beltran's did in 2004, but he still got paid with the 8 year/$180M the Yankees bequeathed him ($20M this and next year, then $22.5M until 2016).

If those are the kinds of numbers Boras is contemplating for Holliday, that's a scary proposition.

Holliday's WAR right now is 3.8, which translates into $17.2M for his work in 2009. In 2008, when he finished his season, Teixeira's WAR was the highest it had ever been (6.7), which put his value at $30M; he got $22.5M a season (average, including bonuses). His compensation probably suffered that hit based on both the state of the economy last fall, as well as the Sabathia signing. Beltran's 2005 WAR was 6.5, good enough to be worth $20.2M, and he got $17M a season (average).

I assume teams will still be willing to pay ~$5 million dollars a win for high-end free agents this winter. Holliday certainly qualifies as a high-end guy. Holliday's career high in WAR is 7.9 (2007), and he's tearing it up right now; so let's further assume he'll stay in the high end of his statistical averages (assuming he'll stay as white hot as he is now is a little silly), so that'd put his 2009 WAR at a solid 7.

That's $35M a year for him. The Cardinals can't afford that.

Drop the price to $30M. So what? The Cardinals still can't afford him.

Lower his yearly salary to $22.5M, the same level Teixeira got last year. That could be doable, however, there's this additional elephant in the room: Albert Pujols is a free agent in 2011, and the team wants to re-sign him too. Albert's AVERAGED a 7.8 WAR from 2002-2008. That's, um, $40M per.

If they break the bank to sign Holliday, will there be any $$ left to sign Pujols? Highly unlikely.

It's becoming increasingly clear the Cardinals can't afford both Holliday and Pujols. At least to me. Now, there are options, which we'll explore later this week.

Let's hope they win the World Series this year. It may be their last shot for a while.

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