Matt Holliday is more financially set than most of his peers – at least in terms of his contract. The Scott Boras client, traded to St. Louis from Oakland during the 2009 season, became a free agent that fall, and cashed in.
In January 2010, the now-34-year-old came to terms to return to the St. Louis Cardinals for the next seven seasons, with a club option for an eighth. It is still the longest and largest deal in team history. The total value will be either $120 million or $136 million, depending on whether the 2017 option is picked up.
While that seems like a long time into the future, it isn’t really. Holliday is already at least half-way through his Cardinals commitment.
I have been thinking about Holliday since his Tuesday remarks on SiriusXM Radio. The outfielder spoke out in favor of abolishing draft pick compensation for teams that sign free agents given qualifying offers by their former clubs.
A poster on The Cardinal Nation message board suggested that Holliday’s remarks may have been made with one eye on his own situation. Specifically, Holliday could end up in the same qualifying offer limbo that several free agents seem to fall into each spring.
Initially, I waved off the notion. My take was that if Holliday continues to perform, he would have no problem scoring a late career, multi-year deal as did his former teammate Carlos Beltran earlier this off-season – whether draft pick compensation was attached or not.
While I still believe that to be quite possible, the more I think about it, the more I can see where the poster was coming from. (For a qualifying offer situation to become relevant, we have to assume Holliday’s 2017 option will be picked up.)
In the 2018 season, his first under a new deal, Holliday would no longer be in the prime of his career. At 38 years of age, he will be two years older than Beltran today. It would not be unreasonable to assume it would be his final opportunity to score a decent sized contract before his career concludes. Unless the designated hitter is implemented across MLB in the interim, Holliday’s likely destination would be the American League.
In that scenario, I could see the Cardinals potentially making Holliday a qualifying offer and him turning it down. Of course, that assumes he remains a productive hitter and can play adequate defense in left field as he approaches 40. So maybe that poster’s idea about Holliday joining the qualifying offer population one day was not so far-fetched, after all. If so, it could further limit Holliday’s 2017-2018 free agent options – the same subject that bothers him with today’s free agents.
The reality of the situation, however, is that a new Collective Bargaining Agreement between players and owners will be in place by the 2017-2018 off-season. If Holliday’s union peers share his desire to change the compensation rules, and the owners agree, it may not matter. Then again, we cannot assume anything at this point. And if nothing changes, we may be hearing Holliday’s same complaints four years from now – as the matter hits especially close to home.