Thursday, January 7, 2010

What You've All Been Waiting For, Ain't It?

Sorry about the delay in my response to the Matt Holliday signing.  I was stuck in a blizzard in Central New York counting plastic septic tanks.  Jealous much?

I'm going to get used to seeing this.

Now, this gap in time between the day of the signing (Tuesday for those of you also buried in a blizzard) and today has given me the opportunity to read some of the reactions.  And let me summarize them for you, they aren't exactly full of praise.

One of my favorite blogs, Ump Bump, has a post that is titled quite straightforwardly.  And what's strange about that post is that it completely overlooks what most people are worried about - the length of the contract.  Others are worried about the money, which will be flowing Holliday's way until fucking 2029!  And when it comes to money, you know that Fangraphs has to chime in.  Their response to the contract is surprisingly average.  To be honest, that neither-good-nor-bad analysis from Fangraphs is probably just about the most positive one I have been able to find from people I respect.

I am here to write the first positive reaction.

What I find most interesting in the Fangraphs post, and most of their posts actually, is how they always bring up the market value for one on the market, which is currently going around $4.4 million, according to them.  By this measure, the Cardinals paid around market price for Holliday since Fangraphs is projecting him around a 4.5 WAR player next year.

But this sort of assumption only makes sense in a vacuum of baseball signings, and this is what I dislike about the Fangraphs analysis every time.

You can't actually say that each one of the wins Holliday adds is actually worth $4.4 million.  If you look at this chart from Fangraphs, you can see who sits on top.  According to them, Holliday was, in fact, the best left fielder who played last year (also keep in mind his meek start in Oakland).

Being the best player at his position makes Matt Holliday a premium product.  When it comes to premium products, the price per unit goes up; it's simple economics.  Which costs more per pound - ground chuck or filet mignon?  (I apologize in advance for that shitty comparison)

Sure, the $4.4 million per win figure works when you consider that all the players can pump out the same production.  But when a player gets beyond what an average player produces (around 1.8-2.0 WAR), the price per an additional win becomes more and more expensive.  Based on looking at the $17 million per a year in this way, Holliday is actually a steal (especially if he produces at his 5.7 WAR clip again for the next few years, hell, even a 4.5 WAR would still be worth a premium price) because he can give you more production from the spot for the time he plays.

I'm not exactly the most thrilled about the seven years that tie the Cards to Holliday, but you can see that there is another strategy behind this offer.  Obviously, if Mozeliak is able to show Pujols in 2011 that he will have a partner-in-crime for the next five years at least, one has to think he may have a little bit of an upper hand.  Especially considering that Wainwright will be around, too.  (Although, the key to keeping Pujols around will be Yadi, but that's a-whole-nother topic.)

As far as filling in the remaining spots on the roster goes, I think the Cardinals will be alright honestly.  Going into the 2009 season, lots of people had them finishing third behind Chicago and Milwaukee because there was a seeming lack of depth behind Pujols.  I mean, who ever thought that Brendan Ryan would ever step up?  For some reason, Tony has a knack for finding some role player who can step up and overproduce (Ludwick, Ryan, Aaron Miles, etc.) and ride them for the year.  I give him a 50/50 chance of being able to make this sort of move again.

And if no one steps up from nowhere, I'm still not worried.  Don't forget, but the Cards have two sandwich picks coming this year thanks to DeRosa and Pineiro (when he signs, obviously).  These picks will give them three of the roughly top forty picks.  In addition, there is Bryan Anderson (Cards' #3 prospect), who will forever be stuck behind Yadi, for decent trade bait.  If these factors don't work, then I think that the Cardinals will be able to sign some of these guys most likely for two cents on the dollar, based on this year's market.  (Oh, and as far as the future goes... don't forget that Penny and Lugo come off next year's books if needed.)

So if you see me walking around with a smile on my face, not worrying about the Cards, the way plenty of those around baseball currently are, you will know why.


  1. ESPN Radio-"A Soriano like contract for Matt Holliday"

  2. Few things to think about;

    - Cards now have around $8 mil to spend on their remaining needs (OF, IF, couple of Pitchers)

    - WAR is a rough stat to base a player on. If you like it so much, then Ben Zobrist is amazing.

    - It sounds like an amazing financial plan to now sign Pujols and commit $38-45 mil a year on two players.

    - The market for Holliday must have been competitive for such a big deal right? Simple economics would say that the higher the competition, the higer the pay day. So why did the Cardinals breakdown? No one else wanted him.

  3. Rebuttals:

    Mr. Anonymous,

    You just quoted Chicago's ESPN radio as a source. Enough said.


    1. I know that you probably read that figure from another article online, but where is everyone originally deriving this number from? I am yet to see an interview with Cardinals management that explicitly states this range being all that is left. So if people are figuring that the Cardinals are simply going to keep last year's payroll, that's a dumb assumption. Plus, let's not forget that Holliday's salary is prorated, which means they are not taking a full $17 million hit this year or others into the future.

    2. Actually, yes, I do love Ben Zobrist and do think he is amazing.

    3. There is a future post that will address this issue.

    4. I know that the Cardinals were the only bidder, but that doesn't mean they can pay whatever they wanted. Do you honestly think that Holliday would have been happy with $10 million a year? Of course not. The Cards wanted to lock Holliday up long-term, so they had to pay a price that would please him. Otherwise, Holliday would have scoffed at the lower figure deal, signed for one year, and then probably gone to the Reds or something next offseason to exact his revenge. So, in order to lock up Holliday, the Cardinals had to overpay from what others may have been offering if they had any desire whatsoever to actually have him long-term.

    Plus, if you think this deal looks dumb, look at how dumb the Jason Bay deal now looks.