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Let’s Cut Our Losses on Holliday

It was about a week until the trade deadline when the news became official: Matt Holliday was headed for St. Louis. At the time, the Cardinals were clinging to a 1.5 game lead in the NL Central. For the most part, Cardinals fans rejoiced. Their impact bat to protect Albert Pujols had arrived. Within weeks, the Cubs and the rest of the division were left for dead. The Cardinals had built a double-digit lead in the division, and were headed for the post-season for the first time since the team’s World Series triumph in 2006. But there were a couple of problems with the trade for this Cardinal fan.

To acquire Holliday, the Redbirds not only had to give up the organization’s number 1 prospect, but they also had to deal with Billy Beane and the Oakland Athletics. As I recall, the Cardinals made a trade with the A’s a few years back to acquire shut-down lefty, Mark Mulder. In return, the Cardinals traded a fellow by the name of Dan Haren. In the 5 years since the trade, Mulder has won 22 ballgames and has pretty much called it a career. Haren? Try 73 wins, and he just turned 29 in September. Ouch. This time around, the Cardinals shipped off Brett Wallace to Oakland. We may not know the full extent of the damage on this trade for another decade or so, but a precedent has been set. Bottom line: Billy Beane rarely gets the raw end of the deal.

But these deals have been made, so there’s no sense in dwelling on them too much now. What needs to be focused on is damage control, and that means letting Matt Holliday walk. Let the Mets, Yankees, or Red Sox overpay for him and let’s move on from this failed experiment. The Cardinals tried to “win now” with Holliday and failed. It’s not like he was the missing piece to the Cardinals’ World Series puzzle. The Cardinals played three playoff games and lost them all, scoring 6 runs in the process. Had Holliday caught that now infamous line drive to seal the victory in game 2, the Redbirds would’ve likely still lost that series, and certainly would’ve been trounced by the Phillies. The team needs more quality bats than just Holliday’s to compete with the likes of the Phillies and Yankees. So let him go.

Does anyone out there really want to see the Cardinals spend, say, $150 million to keep a guy that did nothing in the playoffs? Maybe Cubs fans, who know the anguish of watching grossly overpaid outfielders hold the team hostage with dead-weight contracts. You think St. Louis fans hate Marc Bulger and Eric Brewer? Just wait until Holliday, who turns 30 in January, starts to fade 4 or 5 years into his 8-10 year contract. I can see it now. Cardinals fans will be sitting in the stands in late July asking why a guy making roughly $20 million a year is struggling to hit for average and has just 11 homeruns and 54 runs batted in (and those were actually Holliday’s numbers in Oakland this year prior to the trade). Then they’ll complain about how he missed that fly ball in the playoffs that could’ve changed the Cardinals’ fate back in 2009. Then they’ll think about who he’s not: that Brett Wallace guy, who’s tearing the cover off the ball out west. And the absolute worst-case scenario: they’ll complain about Holliday’s contract being the reason the Cardinals couldn’t re-sign Pujols.

All we can do now is hope the Cardinals make the right decisions this off-season. Let Colby Rasmus develop. Let Allen Craig and David Freese take a shot at third. Let the strength of the starting pitching carry the team.

And let Matt Holliday walk.

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Cardinals Mix blog featured writers LS Murphy,Brian F. Logush
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