The Cardinals finished their negotiations for Matt Holliday, Joe Strauss writes. Holliday was an MVP candidate in Colorado and he performed exceptionally for the Cardinals in the last nine weeks of last season, giving St. Louis a devastating two-man punch in the middle of its lineup.
That said, the news of the Cardinals' seven-year deal is stunning to many in rival front offices. "Who were they bidding against?" asked one GM. "If the Red Sox, with their money, offered him $82.5 million, and then pulled out of the running, then why go higher than that? They [the Cardinals] look like they spent about $30 million more than they needed to."
Said another executive: "I guess that will end the collusion talk."
Part of the rivals' confusion over the Cardinals' deal is that from the outside looking in, it would seem to put the team into a position in which they would have to offer Albert Pujols a deal much higher than the record-setting contract (for St. Louis) that they just gave Holliday. "What is it going to cost them to keep Pujols now? Thirty million a year?" asked another high-ranking executive. "After this contract, he wouldn't be out of line to ask for that, because he's the best player in the game."
Route A: They are prepared to pay something in the range of $43 million to $47 million annually to two players who will be past their 32nd birthdays, from 2012 forward.
Route B: They won't sign Pujols.
As the contract details are coming out, the industry will get a more complete picture of Holliday's deal. Strauss writes within his story above that it includes deferred money that lowers its present-day value to $16 million annually.
On the face of it, though, it appears to be an extraordinary deal for the slugger, and for agent Scott Boras -- who once again managed to get a record-setting deal despite the fact he didn't appear to have the Yankees, Mets, Red Sox, Phillies, Angels, Orioles (who never offered more than $70 million) or Dodgers competing against the Cardinals.
And it's a contract which is raising a lot of eyebrows in other front offices, as well as a simple question: Why that much?
By the way: Within the same piece above, there is word that the Holliday signing means that the Cardinals almost certainly will not pursue either Felipe Lopez or Miguel Tejada unless their asking prices drop markedly. Ryan Church is one possibility for the Cardinals, writes Derrick Goold. What is learned from this deal is that the Cardinals are not cheapskates, writes Jeff Gordon.
Here are the figures from the Holliday deal: He will make $15 million a year in salary for seven years, plus the vesting option for 2017; if the option doesn't vest, then the team can either pick up the option at $17 million or take the buyout for $1 million. He also will make an additional $2 million a year in deferred salary, which is how we get to the present-day value of $16 million a year.
From 2010 to 2016: $15 million annually, plus another $2 million a year in deferred payments.
In 2017: At least $1 million in a buyout.
This is how we get to $120 million.
Here's a take on Holliday's contract by the numbers, courtesy of the St. Louis P-D.
No more no-trade?
• When the Have-Not teams start putting together a list of disadvantages to discuss in advance of the next round of labor talks, here's one more that will be brought up: No-trade clauses.
Increasingly, executives with small-market and mid-market teams say that they simply cannot afford to dole out this contractual provision because it wrecks their leverage in the event they need to move the player because of financial concerns. The no-trade clause was a major factor in Toronto's handling of the Roy Halladay trade talks; San Diego's dealings with Jake Peavy; and Minnesota's trade talks involving Johan Santana two years ago.
"It's just a killer," said one GM. "You're already under the gun because you are working to move the contract, but then to have the player control the process -- it's just too much to give up unless you're the Yankees or the Red Sox."
Mid-winter review: Boston Red Sox
The first of 30, by the way ...
Problem: Boston's offense has eroded over the past 18 months, with the departure of Manny Ramirez and the regression of David Ortiz, and most recently, with the departure of Jason Bay. But the overriding concern for the Red Sox was their pitching: Boston's starters' ranked 19th among 30 teams in ERA last season, at 4.63. So without any perfect offensive solutions available in free agency or in the trade market, the Red Sox have moved to strengthen their pitching and their defense.
Solutions: Boston will probably end up being the biggest spenders in free agency this winter. Shortstop Marco Scutaro signed a three-year, $17 million deal, John Lackey signed a five-year, $82.5 million deal, Mike Cameron was locked up to play center, and now Adrian Beltre -- generally regarded as the best defensive third baseman in the game -- will take over at third base.
The Beltre signing will not interfere in any way with Boston's likely pursuit of Adrian Gonzalez in the trade market this summer, given that Beltre is signed to only a one-year contract. If the Red Sox made a move on Gonzalez, they could either trade Beltre or keep him as part of their deep 1B/3B/DH/C mix that will also include Ortiz and Victor Martinez.
An AL talent evaluator e-mailed some thoughts on Boston's changes in its defense: "Any time you get Julio Lugo off the field [the Red Sox traded Lugo in the middle of last season], it is an upgrade. They have a strikeout staff and a small left field [in Fenway], and this means their defense can't have as much impact as for other teams. But the changes are an upgrade overall. I still need to see Scutaro play a season at Fenway, off the turf. Solid defensive upgrade overall; they'll be better in left, center, third base and shortstop. They position themselves well and will make the routine plays as well as any team."
Jacoby Ellsbury is going to play left field, and Mike Cameron is going to play center field under Boston's new alignment, Joe McDonald writes. Beltre is an excellent pickup for the Red Sox, writes Nick Cafardo.
Some numbers on the Beltre signing:
He had a .265 BA, an .683 OPS, 8 HRs and 44 RBIs in 2009 (a season in which he was injured much of the year).
He signed his deal with the Mariners after his breakout 2004 season.
Around the league
• Khalil Greene has been working out at Vanderbilt, where his former college coach, Tim Corbin, runs the program. Corbin is astonished by the extent of the work that Greene, a free agent, has put in this offseason.
Greene struggled with emotional issues during last season with the Cardinals. "I think in talking with him, he's different now," Corbin said. "I hope someone gives him a shot. ... He is working very diligently on his defense and his offense in our cages, three to four hours a day. It's like he brings his lunch with him -- he works out, eats his lunch, and then goes back to work."
Greene, 30, hit 27 homers for the Padres in 2007, and he could be a good fit for the Athletics, who just lost out on the bidding for Adrian Beltre; if Greene rebounds, he could provide power, and at the very least, he would provide strong defense at third, a position he played at Clemson for Corbin. "He was the best third baseman I have seen in college baseball," Corbin said.
Heard this: Greene's agent is still looking for a major league deal, rather than a minor league contract with an invite to spring training.
• Some more Hall of Fame thoughts from Mark Simon of ESPN Stats & Information:
Will Jack Morris be elected someday by the BBWAA?
Last year, Jack Morris got 44 percent of the vote in his 10th year of Hall of Fame eligibility. That means he needs a 31 percent jump over the next five ballots. Based on past voting patterns, that would seem highly unlikely. The last candidate to get that low a percentage of the vote, at least 10 years into his candidacy, and be elected BY THE BBWAA, was former Yankee Red Ruffing, who got 32 percent in his 11th year of eligibility, in 1960, and was eventually inducted in 1967 (there was a time in which voting was only done every other year).
The rules of the process were significantly different then. Ruffing was elected via a run-off election that followed the initial 1967 ballot, on which he was 6 percent short of induction. By coincidence, Morris and Ruffing have significant statistical similarities. Ruffing's 3.80 ERA is the highest of any pitcher in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
For the record, three others with that low a percentage 10-plus years into the process got into the Hall of Fame, prior to Ruffing: Gabby Hartnett and Dazzy Vance in 1955, and Rabbit Maranville in 1954.
Moves, deals and decisions
His final career rankings:
Adjusted ERA+: 20th
Strikeouts: No. 2
Victories: No. 22
Strikeouts per nine innings: No. 1
2. Heard this: The Giants offered Adam LaRoche a two-year, $17 million deal, and were turned down, and now it's not clear if that offer is still on the table. The team is considering alternatives, and with Casey Kotchman now headed to Seattle, there would seem to be only two teams looking for a first baseman -- the Giants and Orioles.
The Giants are pursuing more help, writes Henry Schulman.
3. Kotchman is flying to Seattle today for his physical examination. Kotchman is a nice, relatively low-cost fit for the Mariners. If he has a good season, they can retain him through arbitration for 2011. If he struggles early, they could be one of the teams in the running to make a deal for Adrian Gonzalez. The Mariners are sending cash to Boston in this deal, writes Geoff Baker.
4. The arbitration filing period has opened, and Maury Brown has more specifics here about last year's final numbers.
5. Looks like Dan Uggla is going to stay with the Marlins for the start of the 2010 season, and now they could be more open to dealing Jorge Cantu, to save money, writes Juan Rodriguez. Cantu would be a nice fit for the Orioles, for sure.
6. Jason Bay is bringing a fresh perspective to the Mets, writes John Harper. There is no question about this: So long as the Mets land a good veteran starter, like Joel Pineiro, they will be, on paper, a better team than they were in 2009. Bay is now one of the Mets, writes Mike Vaccaro.
Interestingly, these are the teams with the most players with a salary of $9 million-plus, according to Mark Simon of ESPN Stats & Information, for the 2010 season:
Yankees -- 10
Cubs -- 8
Red Sox -- 7
Mets -- 7
Tigers -- 6
7. Bob Klapisch thinks the Mets should move in their fences.
10. A large turnout is expected for the Pirates' mini-camp, writes Dejan Kovacevic.
11. The Indians signed a couple of veteran free agents, writes Paul Hoynes.
12. A minor league manager was promoted by the Brewers.
13. The Yankees are looking to bolster their depth, writes Pete Caldera.
15. Jacoby Ellsbury is going to play left field, writes Joe McDonald.
16. With Miguel Olivo signing with the Rockies, here are fun facts from Daniel Braunstein of ESPN Stats & Information: He's the only player ever to walk fewer than 10 times and strike out more than 100 times in the same season. In 2006, Olivo walked nine times (four intentionally) and had 103 strikeouts. Also, with 98 career walks and 96 career home runs, he has a chance to become the only player with 100 HRs to have more home runs than walks.
17. The Marlins will be "Florida" no more on the road.
18. The Padres are adding scouts, writes Bill Center.
Q: If Edgar Martinez goes in to the Hall of Fame, doesn't Dick Allen have to get in? There stats are very similar, Allen hit more HRs, played defense, and actually posted a higher career OPS+ than Martinez. Both players had eight years of outstanding production and several other good complimentary years. If Allen is NOT a HOF, then neither is Martinez.
-- Dale (Calvert City, Ky.)
A: Dale: I didn't vote for Edgar Martinez, for the same reason that I didn't vote for Don Mattingly; he was an exceptional player, but his period of dominance just didn't last long enough, as reflected in his career totals in hits and home runs.
• Colleague Rob Neyer implies within this piece that Tyler Kepner needs to be objective in his evaluation of Jack Morris, in order to do his job. I'll say this: I've known Tyler for 15 years and there is not a more objective, open-minded reporter in the business.
• The Cardinals may win more, but the Astros manage their money better, writes Richard Justice.
• The DeWine family is buying a baseball team, writes Hal McCoy.
• In the aftermath of the death of Rory Markas, the Angels face a tough call, writes Diane Pucin.
• Andre Dawson is a little nervous about the Hall of Fame vote.
• Amelia Lincoln, my youngest sister, learned on New Year's Day that she has leukemia. On Tuesday, she and James Patterson, her husband, began the process of healing.
And today will be better than yesterday.