Cheap Seats

Holiday offer: Eight years, $128 million

I want to give the Cardinals a round of applause for offering what seems to be a serious bid to retain slugging left fielder Matt Holliday.

On paper, the deal is reported to be $128 million over eight years, which is considerably more in total value than what I would have offered if I was the GM. But, in fairness, that might not be exactly what it seems ... The deal apparently contains opt-outs that would let Holliday tear up the contract and re-enter the free agent market before the bulk of the cash is ever realized.

I have railed from the Cheap Seats many times before against opt-out contracts. In principle, I think they’re ridiculous because they, are an insurance policy for the player at the peril of the clubs — and the fans, who ultimately foot the bill. If he stinks, if he gets hurt or if he gets in trouble with the law, the player stays in the contract and collects like a lottery winner. If he plays well and gives his original team what it expects for its money, the player is probably going to opt out and either force that team to pay him more to stick around or else he’ll sign a big-dollar contract elsewhere.

But these are unusual economic times. If it weren’t a recession, Holliday would likely command much more than the reported $16 million a season on the table. And the Cardinals would be unlikely — or at least unwilling — to afford it.

So in this rare case, I think an opt-out contract might be good for both sides and just what the doctor ordered to get a deal done. My only sticking point is that the Cardinals must insist Holliday has to serve at least three years in St. Louis before he can void the deal.

It’s a good contract for Holliday because, with the Red Sox signing Mike Cameron, the Mets in serious talks for Jason Bay, the Angels, Dodgers and Cubs sitting on the sidelines and the Yankees yawning at the thought of paying Holliday “Mark Teixeira money,” he’s not going to get Mark Teixeira money (aka $180 million over eight years) this off-season. So he signs this deal now and hopes to have three good seasons in red, then hit the jackpot in 2013.

It’s a good deal for the Cardinals because they would be able to keep one of the best hitters in baseball around while he’s 30  to 32 years old for far less than they would have kept him if the economy was better. I think all Cardinals fans would give the team a hearty round of applause if, in this day and age, it was able to get Holliday for a straight three-year, $48 million contract.

While it is still a risk that Holliday would suffer an injury that would make him less of a player and leave the Birds with a $16-million-a-year albatross, the Cardinals also have a significant chance of getting Holliday on the “cheap” for three years, then having $16 million in flexibility to reload in 2013.

It would be a bonus if Holliday decides he really likes it in St. Louis and that he wants to be a career Cardinal instead of opting out. Then the team will be able to keep him at a much more reasonable rate than any of us thought for what amounts to the balance of his career. And, saving 2 million bucks a year on an eight-year deal means that the club would basically get Holliday for free the last season of the contract.

The Birds said they are hopeful they can get the Holliday situation resolved by Christmas, which must mean they are feeling pretty confident things are going to work out.

I’d still like to see the team bring back Mark DeRosa and I wouldn't mind seeing a couple of little tweaks to the pitching staff. But I feel a lot better writing my season ticket check knowing that the team is serious about putting a good product on the field.