Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Meet a Prospect: Matt Holliday Edition

The New York Yankees missed out on Carlos Beltran for their recently vacated designated hitter spot and the team presumably thought that Edwin Encarnacion was either not a fit or too expensive, or both, so the team decided to sign former St. Louis Cardinal left fielder Matt Holliday to a one-year deal worth $13 million. Holliday will be the Yankees regular DH while also presumably taking turns in the outfield and at first base when needed so let’s introduce him and meet him the only way we know how here at The Greedy Pinstripes. This is Meet a Prospect: The Matt Holliday Edition.

Matthew Thomas Holliday was born on January 15, 1980 in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Holliday has spent time with the Colorado Rockies, the Oakland Athletics and the St. Louis Cardinals before making his trip to the Bronx for the 2017 season. Let’s recap and hit the high points of everything that happened in between.
As a youth in Oklahoma the athletic Holliday played baseball, football and basketball where his size became an issue for him with his friends. According to Wikipedia Holliday was forced to play quarterback for both teams and in baseball every three of his home runs were counted as one because of his sheer talent and size as a kid. His friends had to adapt the rules of the game to keep things on a level playing field when Holliday was around. This led to Holliday playing both football and baseball at Stillwater High School where he was named his region’s Gatorade Player of the Year award winner in both sports as a senior leading him to skip college despite interest from the Oklahoma State University to begin his professional career.

The Colorado Rockies selected Holliday in the seventh round of the 1998 MLB First Year Players Draft as a third baseman despite many teams wondering about his true commitment to baseball since he was so talented as a quarterback in football as well. Colorado handed Holliday a deal worth $840,000 over the slot, the most money Colorado has ever paid to a player in that round, leading to the signing and the beginning of his professional career. Holliday spent the 1998 season through parts of the 2004 season in the Rockies minor league system before injuries to Preston Wilson and Larry Walker led to Colorado calling up Holliday after just six games in Triple-A. Holliday made his MLB debut on April 16th inside Busch Stadium against the St. Louis Cardinals going hitless in three at bats. Two days later, also against the Cardinals, Holliday picked up his first MLB hit against Woody Williams, a double which drove in an RBI. Holliday hit his first home on April 22nd against the Los Angeles Dodgers righty Jose Lima.

Holliday was named the Rockies cleanup hitter in 2005 behind Todd Helton and in 2006 the left fielder was chosen to represent Team USA in the 2006 World Baseball Classic. Holliday also earned his first trip to the All-Star Game in 2006 hitting .339 with 16 home runs and 56 RBI at the time of his selection. It was the 2007 season though that Holliday finally broke out and broke out in a big way as Holliday led the Rockies to the postseason after an epic Game 163 victory, another All Star Game appearance, won his first batting title and even won an NLCS MVP Award on the way to the World Series. It’s too bad the Rockies ran into the red hot Boston Red Sox though as Boston won the World Series with Matt Holliday sitting on the sidelines in the series loss. Holliday finished second in the NL MVP vote in 2004 losing to the Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins.

 After that monster 2007 season Holliday earned a new two-year deal from the Rockies worth $23 million which essentially bought out the final two years of his arbitration. Colorado also offered a four-year extension worth $72 million to go along with the deal plus a club option fifth year valued at $12 million but Holliday and his agent Scott Boras felt as if the deal was a bit undervalued and ultimately declined the offer. Holliday was an All-Star for the third consecutive year in 2008 backing up his claim that the Rockies extension offer was a bit on the low side which may or may not have led to the Rockies trading Holliday to the Oakland Athletics in the winter before the 2009 season. Oakland sent pitchers Huston Street and Greg Smith along with outfielder Carlos Gonzalez in the deal for Holliday.

The A’s did not have the start they were hoping for to begin the 2009 season and Holliday was right back in the trade rumor spotlight since Holliday was set to become a free agent at the end of the season. On July 24, 2009 the A’s traded Holliday to the St. Louis Cardinals for Brett Wallace, Clayton Mortensen and Shane Peterson along with $1.5 million in salary as the Cardinals prepared for a chase towards the World Series. Holliday led the Cardinals to an NL Central Division title and a trip to the World Series although the team would fall short to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS. Holliday was not officially a free agent for the first time in his career.

Holliday signed a seven-year deal worth $120 million to remain with the Cardinals before the 2010 season including a no-trade clause and a team option for the 2017 season that we now know was declined by St. Louis. Holliday, now nicknamed the Stillwater Stinger, once again made the All-Star Game in 2010 and also participated in the Home Run Derby and again made a repeat appearance in both once again in 2011 as well. From 2011 – 2013 the Cardinals made three consecutive trips to the NLCS and even won a World Series in 2012, Holliday’s first as a MLB player. Holliday remained consistent with the Red Birds through the 2014 before injuries began to creep up on Holliday during the 2015 season.

In 2015 Holliday spent time on the DL two separate times with a right quadriceps injury missing almost three months of the season and forcing the Cardinals to have Holliday play a position other than left field for 2016. Holliday was the Cardinals Opening Day first basemen in 2016, a position he had never played up until that point during his MLB career, but a fractured thumb once again derailed the season for the big right-hander. Holliday was hit by a pitch and missed a good chunk of timing leading the team to not pick up the team option for the 2017 season, well that and the $17 million price tag to be fair.

The Cardinals let Holliday hit the free agent market this offseason and the Yankees swooped him up. The rest, as they say, is history. Welcome to the organization Matt and welcome to the family. 

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