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. Comment of the Day: do not underestimate the seriousness of the anti-DH crowd

    Apr 27, 2015, 12:32 PM EDT

    Edgar Martinez

    Some people are really committed. Others are so committed, maybe they should be committed.

  2. Chris Perez opts out of minor league deal with Brewers

    Apr 27, 2015, 11:19 AM EDT

    chris perez getty Getty Images

    Perez posted a 9.39 ERA in six appearances for Triple-A Colorado Springs.

  3. They Rays have yet to play a game in an outdoor stadium

    Apr 27, 2015, 11:03 AM EDT

    Rays logo

    “Outdoor baseball is stupid, and domes should be universal. My column:”

  4. A month later, there’s still no timetable for Justin Verlander’s return to the Tigers

    Apr 27, 2015, 10:15 AM EDT

    Detroit Tigers' Verlander reacts after leaving the game against Texas Rangers in their MLB American League baseball game in Arlington Reuters

    He hasn’t thrown since cutting short a bullpen session 10 days ago.

  5. Jeff Loria says there have been no serious discussions about firing Mike Redmond

    Apr 27, 2015, 9:24 AM EDT

    mike redmond getty Getty Images

    The Marlins lose: rumors of the manager being on the hot seat. They win: he’s safe. That’s the sort of reaction that stable teams run by wise men pursue, right?

  6. Pitchers batting is dumb and the DH should be universal

    Apr 27, 2015, 8:34 AM EDT

    adam wainwirght getty Getty Images

    And no, I don’t say that just because Adam Wainwright has been lost for the season due to an injury sustained while hitting.

  7. And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights

    Apr 27, 2015, 7:09 AM EDT

    John Farrell Dustin Pedroia AP

    “Can you pitch, Dustin? Like, every fifth day? I’m serious.”

  8. Jose Abreu joined select company with his 162nd career game

    Apr 26, 2015, 11:05 PM EDT

    Jose Abreu Jose Abreu

    Jose Abreu, one might say, is good at hitting baseballs.

  9. Max Scherzer thinks the National League should adopt the DH

    Apr 26, 2015, 10:15 PM EDT

    Max Scherzer Max Scherzer

    Max Scherzer made an argument for bringing the DH to the National League.

  10. The market for Cole Hamels is getting bigger

    Apr 26, 2015, 9:25 PM EDT

    Cole Hamels Cole Hamels

    Perhaps Phillies GM Ruben Amaro was right to hold onto Cole Hamels.

  11. Alex Rodriguez hits 659th career home run, now one shy of tying Willie Mays

    Apr 26, 2015, 8:39 PM EDT

    Alex Rodriguez Alex Rodriguez

    Alex Rodriguez hit his 659th career home run on Sunday night against the Mets, leaving him one shy of tying Willie Mays.

  12. Video: Alex Gordon dives into the stands to make the catch

    Apr 26, 2015, 7:45 PM EDT

    Alex Gordon Getty Images

    Alex Gordon made an exceptional catch to help Edinson Volquez in Sunday’s game against the White Sox.

  13. Orioles score 18 runs against the Red Sox, setting a new club record

    Apr 26, 2015, 6:05 PM EDT

    Manny Machado, Rey Navarro Manny Machado, Rey Navarro

    The Orioles set a club record for runs scored and the Red Sox starting rotation continues to falter.

  14. A’s sign Ryan Roberts to minor league contract

    Apr 26, 2015, 5:17 PM EDT

    ryan roberts getty Getty Images

    As first reported by Jeff Hem, the play-by-play announcer for the Triple-A Nashville Sounds, the Athletics have signed veteran infielder Ryan Roberts to a minor league contract.

  15. A’s option fifth starter Kendall Graveman to AAA

    Apr 26, 2015, 4:22 PM EDT

    kendall graveman getty Getty Images

    Graveman allowed six earned runs in 4 2/3 innings Saturday in a loss to the Astros, falling to 1-2 on the season with an 8.27 ERA and 2.02 WHIP in 16 1/3 total frames (four starts).

  16. Dodgers place Yasiel Puig and Joel Peralta on the DL

    Apr 26, 2015, 2:58 PM EDT

    dodgers logo

    Two important Dodgers are now on the shelf.

  17. Max Scherzer doubtful for next start due to thumb injury

    Apr 26, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT

    scherzer getty Getty Images

    Scherzer jammed his right thumb during an at-bat Thursday afternoon against the Cardinals. It doesn’t sound like a serious injury, but the $210 million right-hander isn’t going to be rushed back.

  18. Jose Bautista hopes to return early this week

    Apr 26, 2015, 1:02 PM EDT

    jose bautista getty Getty Images

    Last week, it looked like Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista might be headed to the 15-day disabled list with a right shoulder strain. He has now missed five straight games, but the news Sunday was good …

Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. Y. Puig (2984)
  2. D. Smyly (2981)
  3. D. Travis (2928)
  4. M. Saunders (2898)
  5. B. Zobrist (2790)