Skip to content

Four years later, 2009 free-agent pair comes up big in LCSs

Oct 16, 2013, 1:58 AM EDT

ALCS - Boston Red Sox v Detroit Tigers - Game Three Getty Images

Headlined by three players, the post-2009 season MLB free agent class was undoubtedly the weakest seen in at least a decade. The prizes: Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday (acquired from the A’s earlier that summer), Red Sox outfielder Jason Bay and Angels right-hander John Lackey.

The field was so bad that the fourth biggest contract went to Chone Figgins (four years, $36 million from Seattle). Cuban defector Aroldis Chapman (six years, $30.25 million from the Reds) and left-hander Randy Wolf (three years, $29.75 million) were the only other players to get contracts worth a guaranteed $20 million.

The big question at the time was whether the Red Sox would re-sign Bay or try to upgrade to Holliday in left field. Instead, they shocked pretty much everyone with their play for Lackey, signing him to a five-year, $82.5 million contract in mid-December. They added Mike Cameron on a two-year deal at the same time to officially take themselves out of the mix for the top two outfielders.

Bay went on to sign with the Mets two weeks later, getting a guaranteed $66 million over four years. About 10 days after that, Holliday reupped with the Cardinals for $120 million over seven years. The Orioles were also reported to be in the running for Holliday, but that might have been mostly posturing. Before signing Lackey, the Red Sox reportedly offered Holliday the same five-year, $82.5 million deal that the right-hander received, then moved on when it was declined.

Obviously, of the long-term contracts, only those given to Holliday and Chapman worked out as hoped. Lackey, though, has earned his money this year. He and Holliday both came up very big on Wednesday, with Lackey pitching 6 2/3 scoreless innings in Boston’s 1-0 win over Detroit and Holliday hitting a two-run homer in the Cardinals’ 4-2 defeat of the Dodgers.

Still, I can’t help but wonder how much different things would look right now if the Red Sox had stepped up and signed Holliday, as many thought they would. Lackey had a solid first season in Boston before posting a 6.41 ERA in 2011 and missing all of 2012 following Tommy John surgery. Cameron was injured and rather ineffective in his Boston stint. Obviously, Holliday would have been great to have around in the middle of the order from day one. However, if the Red Sox had signed him, they probably wouldn’t have landed Adrian Beltre on a bargain one-year deal later that winter. Those two went on to produce very similar numbers in 2010.

One thing is for sure: if the Red Sox had signed Holliday, they wouldn’t have given Carl Crawford a seven-year, $142 million contract to play left field the following winter. And if they hadn’t done that, there’s no megatrade with the Dodgers a year ago (perhaps they also don’t trade for Adrian Gonzalez in the first place).

And if the Cardinals had missed out on Holliday? Well, it doesn’t seem like they had any interest in Bay, so they probably would have dodged that bullet. It also isn’t very likely that they would have ended up with Lackey. Perhaps they would have signed Beltre instead, though that would have meant bypassing David Freese at third base. They also could went after Johnny Damon as a left fielder and leadoff man.

For the long term, without Holliday, one imagines there would have been no 2011 World Series championship. There likely would have been more pressure to re-sign Albert Pujols, and if the Cardinals could have gotten that done, not only would they probably be stuck with maybe the game’s worst contracts, but they could have missed out on Michael Wacha, who was selected with the Angels’ pick in the 2012 draft (also, the Angels very well could have ended up with Crawford in this scenario, making it even more likely that Pujols stays in St. Louis).

In the end, it seems that everything worked out for the best. Well, not for the Mets, obviously. And the Mariners.  And the Angels. And, lets face it, 2011-12 weren’t too peachy for the Red Sox. But it definitely worked out best for the Cardinals, and I’m sure at least half of you will tell me that’s really all that matters.

Latest Posts
  1. Bruce Bochy sticking with Ryan Vogelsong to start Game 4 of the World Series

    Oct 24, 2014, 11:51 PM EDT

    Ryan Vogelsong Ryan Vogelsong

    Ryan Vogelsong will start as scheduled in Game 4 of the World Series against the Royals. Madison Bumgarner will not pitch on short rest.

  2. Behind strong bullpen, Royals edge Giants 3-2 to take a 2-1 World Series lead

    Oct 24, 2014, 11:27 PM EDT

    The Royals’ bullpen was solid, allowing only two base runners in four innings to preserve Jeremy Guthrie’s win in Game 3 of the World Series against the Giants.

  3. It’s official: Brandon Finnegan the first to play in two World Series in one year

    Oct 24, 2014, 11:02 PM EDT

    Brandon Finnegan Brandon Finnegan

    Brandon Finnegan achieved a rather rare feat with his first appearance of the World Series in Game 3 on Friday night against the Giants.

  4. Cole Hamels updating his 20-team no-trade list

    Oct 24, 2014, 10:55 PM EDT

    Cole Hamels Cole Hamels

    Cole Hamels is updating his 20-team no-trade list, which will dictate if and how the Phillies shop him over the off-season.

  5. Giants strike back with two runs, trail 3-2 going into the seventh

    Oct 24, 2014, 10:22 PM EDT

    Michael Morse Michael Morse

    The Giants fought back in the bottom of the sixth inning with two runs, making it a one-run game again. The Royals lead 3-2 heading into the seventh inning.

  6. Royals add on, lead Giants 3-0 going into the bottom of the sixth inning

    Oct 24, 2014, 10:00 PM EDT

    Alex Gordon Alex Gordon

    The Royals extended their lead over the Giants to 3-0 thanks to an Alex Gordon RBI double and an Eric Hosmer RBI single in the top of the sixth inning of Game 3 of the World Series.

  7. Twins expected to contact Joe Maddon about managerial vacancy

    Oct 24, 2014, 9:50 PM EDT

    Joe Maddon Joe Maddon

    The Twins are expected to consider free agent manager Joe Maddon for their managerial vacancy.

  8. Through three innings of World Series Game 3, Royals lead Giants 1-0

    Oct 24, 2014, 9:08 PM EDT

    Jeremy Guthrie Jeremy Guthrie

    The Royals have a narrow lead through the first three innings of Game 3 of the World Series against the Giants.

  9. Victor Martinez expected to pursue a four-year deal

    Oct 24, 2014, 8:45 PM EDT

    Victor Martinez Victor Martinez

    Victor Martinez is going to use his monster 2014 season to attempt to get a four-year deal over the off-season.

  10. Bruce Bochy, Dave Righetti have discussed using Madison Bumgarner on short rest if Giants lose Game 3

    Oct 24, 2014, 8:05 PM EDT

    Madison Bumgarner Madison Bumgarner

    The Giants have kicked around the idea of using Madison Bumgarner on short rest if they lose Game 3 of the World Series against the Royals.

  11. Kevin Towers expected to join Reds after being fired as Diamondbacks GM

    Oct 24, 2014, 7:43 PM EDT

    Kevin Towers AP

    No word yet on the exact role Towers would fill in Cincinnati.

  12. Paul Konerko, Jimmy Rollins named co-winners of the Roberto Clemente Award

    Oct 24, 2014, 7:20 PM EDT

    Paul Konerko Getty Images

    Paul Konerko and Jimmy Rollins are your co-winners of the Roberto Clemente Award.

  13. The greatest trick this Royals bullpen ever pulled …

    Oct 24, 2014, 6:55 PM EDT

    Greg Holland Greg Holland

    The Royals bullpen is really good. So good, in fact, that you can’t really use it incorrectly, Joe Posnanski writes.

  14. Royals claim Moises Sierra off waivers from White Sox

    Oct 24, 2014, 6:37 PM EDT

    Moises Sierra White Sox Getty Images

    Being in the World Series hasn’t stopped the Royals from tweaking the margins of their 40-man roster.

  15. Report: Joe Maddon seeking a five-year deal in the $25 million range

    Oct 24, 2014, 6:05 PM EDT

    Joe Maddon Joe Maddon

    Joe Maddon is looking to become at least the second-highest paid manager in baseball.

  16. Taylor Jordan had surgery to remove bone chips from elbow

    Oct 24, 2014, 5:40 PM EDT

    Washington Nationals v Atlanta Braves Getty Images

    Jordan pitched well in nine starts for the Nationals as a 24-year-old rookie last season, but then went 0-3 with a 5.61 ERA in five starts this year before being shut down in June.

  17. It’s possible that some are overstating the impact of Joe Maddon opting out

    Oct 24, 2014, 5:03 PM EDT

    joe maddon rays pointing

    Joe Maddon is a good manager. But he’s just a manager.

  18. Adam Wainwright underwent elbow surgery to “trim” cartilage

    Oct 24, 2014, 4:23 PM EDT

    adam wainwright getty Getty Images

    Earlier this week the Cardinals insisted there was nothing wrong with Adam Wainwright’s elbow and he wouldn’t require surgery.

  19. Ranking every baseball team’s “victory song”

    Oct 24, 2014, 4:00 PM EDT

    Screen Shot 2014-10-24 at 3.47.04 PM

    Needs more Pixies. I have no idea which song, but any list needs more Pixies.

Featured video

When home-field advantage isn't so
Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. T. Lincecum (3070)
  2. M. Bumgarner (2639)
  3. M. Morse (2423)
  4. J. Shields (2231)
  5. Y. Cespedes (2068)
  1. H. Pence (1492)
  2. T. Ishikawa (1434)
  3. L. Cain (1426)
  4. U. Jimenez (1419)
  5. B. Butler (1385)