Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Matt Holliday Deal, Two Days After

Posted By on Sun, Jul 26, 2009 at 5:39 AM

You have got to be kidding me. 

Friday morning, I decided to take a day off. Actually went out of town for the day. Thought to myself, "Nothing big's going to happen today. I'll take off today, then get some writing done over the weekend during the Philadelphia series. Probably after that we'll start to see the Cards get serious about trying to make whatever deal they're going to make." 

So, of course, as I was taking my day off, the Cardinals made their biggest trade since 2002, when they brought Scott Rolen aboard in exchange for Placido Polanco, Mike Timlin, and the No-Hit Kid, Bud Smith

I've asked before, and I'll ask again: why do the Cardinals hate me? 

So how do I feel about the trade for Matt Holliday, you ask? 

When I first heard about the deal, I hated it. Absolutely hated it. Everyone I knew called me, sent me emails, texts, a couple of telegraphs, all wanting to know how I felt about the deal, and every single time I sent back the same reply: "I hate it." I hated it when it was only a rumour; why would I change my mind when it actually happened? 
click to enlarge summer_holiday.jpg
Now that I've had a couple of days to reflect, I still don't like it, but I don't hate it as much. In fact, it's probably a good thing I didn't write about the trade the day it happened; the resulting column likely would have been a bit, um, shall we say, over the top. 

First off, let me say this: the Cardinals and John Mozeliak gave up way too much for Matt Holliday. I'm not going to break down all the numbers of prospect valuation and cost analysis; if you want the actual numbers, Chuck over at VEB did a very nice job of crunching all the figures. Suffice it to say, Billy Beane just fleeced Mo in this deal, at least from the perspective of actual, concrete value. 

But then again, strict value numbers had very little to do with this deal, of course. This deal was all about the Cardinals leveraging what they had to get what they needed, trying to make this year's team better. 

So first off, did this deal make the team better? Absolutely. The Cardinals just added probably the best left fielder in baseball. I don't make that statement lightly, either; look around the majors, and I don't think there's another left fielder who measures up to what Matt Holliday brings to the table. Manny Ramirez is a better hitter, but we've all seen him in the field. Holliday, on the other hand, is, by most defensive metrics, one of the very best defensive left fielders in the game. Carl Crawford is probably Holliday's equal in the field, but as exciting as stolen bases are, the numbers don't lie. Holliday's OPS+ currently stands at 131 for the season, compared to 110 for Crawford. Jason Bay has much the same problem Manny does, as much of the value he adds with his bat gets lost somewhere in the webbing of his glove. (To be fair, though, Bay does play in a park in Fenway that really hides his defensive deficiencies, so in that specific situation, it isn't as much of a consideration.) 

So yes, the Cardinals did, in fact, make this year's team better. By how much, exactly, is up for debate, as no matter how well he plays, Matt Holliday is still, in fact, one player. That being said, this is going to have a major impact on the divisional race. That's the good in all this: the Cardinals added the best left fielder in baseball to the middle of their lineup. Pujols/ Holliday/ Ludwick isn't quite the MV3 of yesteryear, but it's pretty damned close. Add in the contributions of Colby Rasmus, Mark DeRosa, and Yadier Molina, and this is suddenly one of the more dangerous lineups you're likely to see. Particularly when you start looking at what this lineup is capable of doing against left-handed pitching, which has been a huge issue to this point in the season. 

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