This is a lot of Matt Holliday. And yet—if you were to tell me that the Cardinals had signed Matt Holliday to a six year, $102 million contract and also agreed to burn $17 million in a giant bonfire prior to the start of the 2017 season, I think I would be singing John Mozeliak's praises at this very moment.
So some of my reservations might be unwarranted and irrational, and there's enthusiasm there, even if it's tempered. Matt Holliday is a really good hitter right now, and he will probably remain a really good hitter for at least four years of this deal, and that's awesome. Re: the Hot Stove, now we're left to build dreamily cheap platoons in the bullpen and at third base, where there is sadly less Jack Cust discussion involved.
Edit: the promised Provisional Thoughts follow the jump.
- It is more or less self-evident, but the Cardinals are now committed to running expensive teams out there indefinitely—while three players are combining to make more than $45 million, as will be the case in 2010 and 2011, there's simply no reasonable case to be made for "cheaping out", even in the pretty expensive, basically meaningless open-the-DeWallet sense of the word. A team that's paying that same $45 million to two players once Pujols's existing contract expires is not being run on a mid-market budget.
- In the comments section, lboros mentions the big bottleneck of 2012, in which a lot of the Cardinals' current payroll advantages crumble into dust. I have to imagine this means payroll's going up, but it won't be going up enough to keep the entirety of the Cardinals' current core together. Mozeliak will probably be watching, say, Daniel Descalso especially closely this year. David Freese might not start the season as the Cardinals' third baseman of the present—I expect to hear more about Joe Crede and the other Freese-like options at the periphery of the market—but it would be a boon to the Cardinals if he could end the season in the role.
- In the end... I like it. Holliday is a better hitter, a more consistent hitter, than the two cautionary tales that this deal most closely resembles. Alfonso Soriano, whose sudden decline frankly makes no sense to me, was signed coming off a career year with the bat that had been prefaced by consecutive seasons as a bog-average, frustratingly incomplete hitter. So too with Vernon Wells—in each case there were bookend seasons that seemed to promise a rare talent but really obscured warning signs that were already present. And all of those purported breakout seasons—Soriano in Washington, Wells in 2006—they're all nearly as valuable as any of Matt Holliday's last four seasons.