The New York Yankees missed out on signing Carlos Beltran, who ended up signing a one year, 16 million dollar deal with the Houston Astros. But the Yankees did not wait long to find someone to take spot of designated hitter, which is the role Beltran would have filled if he had decided to return to the Bronx Bombers. The Yankees have landed former St. Louis Cardinal Matt Holliday, whom they signed to a one year, 13 million dollar deal.
My initial reaction to hearing the Yankees signing Holliday was that it was a bad move. The club is just starting to get rid of some of the older players who have been dragging them down in recent years, so why bring in a soon to be 37 year old who is clearly on the down slope of his career? Holliday has been battling through countless injuries in the past couple years, which have led to a drop in his production. Last season he played in 110 games, and hit .246 while slugging .461.
But then I thought about the deal a little more, and the more I think about it, the more I see this as a nice move for the Yanks. For starters, it is a one year deal, and one year deals are absolute gold for teams. It means the player is playing in what is known as a contract year, which often leads to a little extra motivation for a player. Now that is not true in all cases, but it is not the only reason why these deals are nice for clubs. It certainly minimizes the risk for a team, often resulting in a low risk, high reward type of deal.
So let’s say that Holliday comes into New York and his health proves to be an issue and he struggles mightily. Well then it means the team paid 13 million dollars, and they move on. They can simply bench him and move on during the season, with it only being a hit to the wallets. The team would have no future obligation to him, and would simply move on with no real penalty. The alternate was Beltran for an extra three million. Sure Beltran had better numbers, but he is also three years older, meaning he is just as likely to break down from injury.
Now on the other side of the coin, let’s say Holliday has a solid season. He is moving into an extremely hitter friendly ballpark, which helps out in the power department. Holliday launched 20 homers a season ago despite missing over 50 games. A full healthy season would have had him at 25 homers minimum. Factor in playing half his games in Yankee Stadium now and a bounce back season from Holliday could very easily mean over 30 homers.
Now a big part of this equation will be his health. By moving to the American League, he will be played the majority of his games as the DH. That means he will not be roaming the outfield everyday and that is going to be a huge savior on his legs. Overall, his health will benefit from the move to becoming just a hitter and not having to worry much about playing defense. Now he will get his time in the field every so often, as the club will likely need to give Gary Sanchez a DH day here and there. But Holliday can be slotted in at first base those days, which will be a lot better on his body than left field.
A healthier Holliday should mean a more productive Holliday. If he gets off to a nice start, he will not be pressing at the plate as much, which did have a major impact over the last few seasons. He is a career .303 hitter, so even in a decline in skills, a .246 average is not who Holliday is. The injuries were impacting his performance, and it got to his head, leading him to get jumpy at the plate, which ultimately killed his walk percentage. He had just over a eight percent walk percent last year, which was under three percent lower than most seasons.
So if things come together with a healthy Holliday, he should get off to a nice start and will certainly be one of the team’s main power sources. If that proves to be enough to get the team in the playoff picture, than it works out perfect for the Yankees. And if he does produce, but the team is out of things by the trade deadline, he becomes a trade chip. This is where the one year deal comes back into play. If he becomes trade bait, teams could very well view him as an appealing option given he would be a producing veteran who is not being paid past the season..
One final note I would like to make is he will bring some needed veteran leadership. When Beltran was dealt last year, the team sent away their most predominant veteran presence. That helps explain why the club was interesting in re-signing him. While that did not pan out, the team got someone who can fill that exact void in Holliday. He will become a guy the young players can look up to and learn from.
So when you boil it all down, this has the potential to be a home run signing for the Yankees. There is minimal risk, even if his health proves that he is done, plus plenty of upside. I typically do not like bringing in a guy who looks to be washed up, but when you look at the whole picture, this one makes perfect sense for the Yankees. For Yankees fans, the Holliday’s came early with this signing.