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Boras bluffed the Cardinals

Jan 8, 2010, 9:30 AM EDT

I and others suspected that the Cardinals were bidding against themselves in the Matt Holliday negotiations. Ken Rosenthal suggested yesterday that they had some help via some Boras bluffing:

Would Scott Boras have pulled an Adrian Beltre with Matt
Holliday,
taking a one-year deal in search of a better free-agent
market next
off-season?

The Cardinals believed the answer was yes, and their fear of
losing
Holliday prompted them to award him a seven-year contract,
according
to a source with knowledge of the club’s thinking.

Rosenthal says that the fear was that the Yankees or someone would give Holliday $20 million or something on a one year deal.  He quotes an anonymous baseball executive who is really dubious that Holliday would take such a deal, however, as he is on the record saying that he wants to put down roots for his family.

I think the bluff is doubly silly. Sure, Holliday may not have taken such a deal, but what makes the Cardinals think that such a deal would even develop?  The Yankees may or may not be satisfied with Brett Gardner in left, but even if they go in a different direction, is it really plausible to think that they’d make a one-and-done knock-your-socks-off offer to Holliday? And who else could make such an offer?

Yes, I suppose anything is possible, and yes, it’s way easier to throw barbs from the sidelines than it is to actually sit across the table from Boras, but as far as bluffs go, Matt Holliday taking a one year deal to make his market at age 30 seems like one that’s worth calling.

  1. Old Gator - Jan 8, 2010 at 9:50 AM

    Any dissociative schizophrenic can bid against himself, but only a gullible general manager can pay up.

  2. Charles Gates - Jan 8, 2010 at 9:58 AM

    A team’s desire to sign Holliday for 1 year makes sense, especially considering the 1st round they’d pick when he left. Holliday’s desire to risk long term dollars for an incremental ~$4MM in 2010 is a bit harder to believe.

  3. monkeyball - Jan 8, 2010 at 10:37 AM

    So the threat Scott Boras held out was that of a 1-year deal like … that which Scott Boras client Adrian Beltre just signed a couple days previously?
    I think this trumps the Boras-neglecting-Damon’s-interests-in-favor-of-Holliday’s theory.

  4. RobRob - Jan 8, 2010 at 10:52 AM

    I still don’t understand why the Cardinals were so fixated on signing this guy. Yes, he’s a good player, and any team should want him. But this whole “The Cardinals NEED Holliday” line of reasoning makes no sense to me. If he had played for any other team last season, would they need him any less than they do today?
    Offer five years at $80M. If he wants to take the risk of a one-year deal (remember he time in Oakland?), take the draft picks and move on.

  5. Fast Eddy - Jan 8, 2010 at 11:00 AM

    Rosenthal thinks up a lot of stuff. Most of it is doggie do do, as this is. You have to take into context the signing of Bay at 16.5 Mil. per year to complete this deal. Of course Holliday is worth more than Bay on past performance in his career, and the age difference. When he got the deal for Bay, that was the ingenious deal. Then it set the template for this one. If Bay signs with Beantown for 16 Mil or less, then this deal would have been less also. I think the two go together. That is the genius of Boras. In the meantime Johnny is still left out. He is not worth much in Boras’ book. Wait for a last minute Spring training deal when someone realizes they need an outfielder. they might sign J D for one year at 5-6 mil.

  6. themarksmith - Jan 8, 2010 at 11:15 AM

    There are a few more reasons the bluff doesn’t make sense.
    1) It’s the difference in guaranteed money. Let’s say they wanted to give him just $100 MM. That’s a whole $80 MM more. It would be really hard to turn down that much more money even if you expected a bigger payday next year. Injuries are a significant risk, not to mention performance decline.
    2) Going back out next year would be a misread of the market. The Yankees and Red Sox refused to overpay for Holliday this time around when there weren’t really any alternatives. Do you think they would have overpaid next year when he was a year older? And, at this point, you still have to believe that Mauer and Victor Martinez could be out there next season. Would you rather spend on them or Holliday? Not paying him now was the Yankees and the Red Sox valuing him properly, and no one else was going to spend $20+ MM a year.

  7. APBA Guy - Jan 8, 2010 at 12:35 PM

    I think the point being missed though is not the AAV, but the length of the deal. 5 years at an AAV above the Bay rate makes sense as long as it isn’t too far above. Bay is playing in NYC and there is a premium for that. So something in the range of $ 90M makes sense.
    It’s the last two years of the deal that are problematic. Even with deferred money, it’s going to be an albatross for the Cardinals. If they re-sign Pujols, he and Holliday together will be nearly half the payroll. It will be very difficult to contend with that arrangement three years from now, when injuries start to manifest and bat and foot speeds slow. What are you going to pay Wainwright when he hits free agency?
    At that point, if only two years were left on the Holliday deal you might be able to move him, but not with 4 years left.

  8. Joey B - Jan 8, 2010 at 1:22 PM

    Sounds like nonsense.
    1-Holliday and Beltre have nothing in common. Holliday’s value will stay the same, or go up very slightly if the economy improves, or go down drastically if he gets hurt or has a bad year.
    OTOH, Beltre is coming off of an injury and a bad park, to a great park and great lineup. The upside value of a one-year contract waay exceeds the downside.
    2-Bay got ~ $83M/5. Almost everyone acknowledges that Holliday is better, and he’s younger. $120M/7 makes more sense than $83M/5 for Bay. I mean, if Bay gets $16.5M, then Holliday has every expectation that he’ll get more.

  9. Michael - Jan 8, 2010 at 8:51 PM

    This would not be the first time Boras used unethical tactics to cause a team to bid against itself.
    In specific, look back at the news reports from the days before the Rangers blowed up the salary record for A-Rod. Boras led Tom Hicks to believe he was in a bidding war with up to two unnamed teams – but not a single other team was in the hunt.
    It’s not for nothing that three out of A-Rod’s four major-league contracts have been negotiated around Boras. Each time the agent put his client at risk of alienating the team he wanted to be with, and each time Rodriguez had to step in and deal with it personally.
    I predict hard feelings all around over Holliday’s contract, and it will be at the detriment of his performance to boot.

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