Bats: Right – Throws: Right
Born: January 15, 1980 (36 years old)
With the St. Louis Cardinals not picking up his 2017 option, Matt Holliday finds himself a free agent this offseason. It was an easy choice for the Cardinals to turn down the $17.2 million option because Holliday has been injury prone the past few seasons, including a broken thumb this year, and he is not the same player he was seven years ago.
Despite his thumb not being fully healed, the Cardinals activated Holliday for the last series of the season so he could get the standing ovation he so richly deserved. Despite his aching thumb, Holliday would hit a pinch hit home run allowing the fans to cheer him one last time. It was the best Holliday and the Cardinals could hope for at the conclusion of a seven year deal. In his Cardinals career, Holliday hit .293/.380/.494 while averaging 20 homers and 80 RBI a season. He was a four time All Star, and he was a member of the 2011 World Series Champions.
Despite that fairy tale ending, Holliday still wants to play, and with good reason as he can still hit. Despite Holliday being somewhat injury prone the past few seasons, he still hit .259/.350/.442 with 36 doubles, two triples, 24 homers, and 97 RBI in 183 games. In his last healthy season, 2014, Holliday hit .272/.370/.441 with 22 homers and 94 RBI. Overall, we know that when Holliday is healthy enough to play, he will be a solid bat in the lineup.
However, that might be all Holliday is at this point in his career – a bat. The age and injuries have taken their toll on him, and it has shown in the field. Since 2014, Holliday has averaged a -4 DRS and a -2.8 UZR in left field. While a team could live with the subpar defense in 2014 and 2015, especially with the way he hit, Holliday really regressed in 2016. It was arguably his worst year defensively with him posting a -8 DRS and a -5.1 UZR in 644.0 innings. These numbers are a big reason why the Cardinals asked Holliday to transition to first base during last offseason and Spring Training.
Holliday would be the Opening Day first baseman for the Cardinals, but due to a number of issues, including his injuries, he would only play 61.2 innings there in 2016. While it was a small sample size, Holliday did post a 1 DRS and a 1.1 UZR at the position suggesting that with another offseason of work at the position, he could be relied upon to play first base for a team. At a minimum, Holliday’s ability to play first base will increase the number of teams that could be interested in him this offseason.
There have been reports Holliday could command a deal around $10 million per season. At his age and with his injury history, it is likely Holliday could command no more than a one year deal for that amount. If enough teams become interested it is possible Holliday could receive a vesting option or a second year all together. At the moment, the only known suitor for Holliday is the budget conscious Colorado Rockies. However, after the bigger free agents like Yoenis Cespedes, Jose Bautista, and Edwin Encarnacion sign, we will likely see more teams become interested in Holliday.
Holliday could very well play the role the Mets envisioned when they signed Michael Cuddyer back in 2014. He could be the right-handed bat the Mets need. As we stand today, the Mets outfield is Michael Conforto, Curtis Granderson and Jay Bruce. Holliday could break up this trio a bit by platooning with Granderson, who hits lefties poorly, out there. It would also permit the Mets to keep both Holliday and Granderson fresh for the season.
When there is a left-handed pitcher on the mound, Juan Lagares could play center field, and Holliday could move to first base to give Lucas Duda a day off. Remember, not only is Duda coming off a stress fracture in his lower back, he has also hit .224/.295/.364 off left-handed pitching in his career. A bat like Holliday’s would be a good platoon option for Duda.
What we don’t know about Holliday is what he wants this offseason. Does he want to go to a contending team like the Mets to get semi-regular playing time in the hopes of chasing another World Series ring? Or does Holliday want to go to a place like Colorado and put up some big numbers to help him get another contract next offseason?
Ultimately, the Mets will likely only be interested in Holliday if they are unable to sign Cespedes. It’s possible the Mets may first turn to Jose Bautista, or possibly Dexter Fowler. If the Mets are unable to acquire either of them, they could then set their sights on someone like Holliday – who will not only provide some offense, but he will also permit some ideal platoon advantages and flexibility next season.