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Brian Walton's news and commentary on the St. Louis Cardinals (TM) and their minor league system

Will Holliday pull a Lohse or a Weaver this off-season?

While Matt Holliday’s hitting surge as a Cardinal is good for the present, will it damage his chances of remaining with the club in 2010 and beyond?

Having covered the Colorado Rockies since its inception, the Rocky Mountain News’ Tracy Ringolsby remains well connected with the club and its players, current and past. Writing for, the Baseball Hall of Fame writer notes that agent Scott Boras is likely in for a busy weekend as six of the remaining 18 unsigned first round draft picks are his clients.

Down the page was a tidbit that could be both concerning and encouraging to St. Louis Cardinals fans.

Revisiting Matt Holliday’s departure from Colorado and his trade to Oakland, Ringolsby noted the Rockies’ failed bid of four years, $72 million with a reminder that his representatives (read that the Boras Corporation) were looking for a “Mark Teixeira-type deal”.

As a footnote, the Yankees first baseman and Boras extracted a commitment of $180 million for eight seasons from New York after jilting the Boston Red Sox.

Looking at Holliday’s results with St. Louis cause one to wonder if he isn’t playing himself back into Teixeira’s price range. His .493/.523/.813 line as a Cardinal is superb. Even though his lofty numbers are not sustainable, Holliday’s impact is indisputable.

In terms of the past, this was Ringlosby’s summary: “Holliday had enjoyed his career with Colorado, and then got a wake-up slap in the face when he was dealt to Oakland.”

Holliday’s poor play with the A’s this season gave critics further ammunition in asserting he was an over-inflated product of Coors Field. Ringolsby offered this quote to help explain the outfielder’s substandard stint with Oakland:

“I think the Rockies looked for the most miserable place possible and dealt him there,” said one (Rockies) teammate.

But here is the quote that may offer St. Louis fans hope:

“Now that he has escaped and landed in St. Louis, there are friends of Holliday who think he will be more aggressive in directing his pending free-agency negotiations.”

Of course, the definition of “more aggressive” remains to be seen, but it could signal intent on Holliday’s part to not sit back and let Boras play his hand.

I am not going to revisit Boras’ history, as I have done that adequately already. Suffice it to say that in a vast majority of the time, 88% by my research, Boras’ free agents not only test the market, they usually change clubs, ala Teixeira.

Optimistic Cardinals fans happily point to the exception to the rule – Kyle Lohse, who by most accounts ordered Boras to settle with the Cards last fall rather than take the risk of being disadvantaged in free agency again.

Lohse was on firm ground as Boras had turned down three years, $21 million for the pitcher to return to the Phillies in 2008. When Boras found no other takers the rest of the winter, Lohse had to accept a cut-rate one-year, $4.5 million deal with the Cardinals with two weeks remaining in spring training. Fast forwarding to when the market contracted last winter, both Boras and Lohse ultimately won with his four-year, $41 million deal signed last September.

Yet other Boras clients have left the Cardinals, such as 2006 post-season star Jeff Weaver. Despite Weaver wanting to return to St. Louis, Boras took him to a disastrous stint in Seattle for more money after turning down St. Louis’ offer.

Perhaps Holliday has wizened to the realities of the business of baseball as a result of the failed negotiations with Colorado and the subsequent bad experience in Oakland.

On the other hand, Holliday’s strong play and the looming spectre of Albert Pujols’ contract extension could mean that with every hit, Holliday further prices himself out of St. Louis’ willingness to pay. While the early vibes from ownership have been positive, there is a lot of ground to be covered before any celebrations can be planned.

In the meantime, Cardinals fans can only wait and wonder.

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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