New York Yankees and Matt Holliday Agree to a One-Year Contract
For the first time since the 2014 offseason, the Yankees have inked a player to a major league contract. In a move that seems like it was a match made in heaven, the team signed Matt Holliday to a one-year, $13 million deal to presumably be their full-time DH. While it’s not the flashy move fans were hoping would leave them drooling on their keyboards, it’s a low-risk move that could provide a lot of upside to an offense that ranked 26th in baseball against left-handed pitching in 2016.
The seven-time All-Star has posted an .863 OPS with 143 home runs since the start of 2011. The longtime left fielder will now be headed to the American League for the second time in his career, where he will have to learn to adjust to not having an everyday job in the field.
Holliday, now 37-years-old, is coming off of two injury-plagued seasons, in which he sat out a combined 183 games. However, there are plenty of reasons to suspect he still has gas left in the tank. In a season headlined by injuries and subpar performance by his standards, Holliday still quietly slashed .246/.322/.461 and owned a 109 wRC+. Now that his surgically repaired thumb has healed, a return to form is not out of the question; he posted an uncharacteristically low .253 BABIP this past season, well below his .333 career mark.
It’s no surprise that the Yankees made this move, given their need for a full-time DH along with a right-handed power bat for their lineup. Holliday brings plenty of pop to the bronx, and he actually would have been one of the Yankees’ best hitters last season; Holliday’s 94.7 MPH average exit velocity last season would have led the team. To put that into further context, Holliday hit the ball 100 MPH or more 42.5 percent of the time last year, which ranked him above Nelson Cruz and Mark Trumbo in that category.
Some may be shocked by the move given the team’s recent trend of getting younger and saving money. Though, in a market filled with designated hitters, the Yankees could walk away from this offseason with one of the best bargains. Given the projections on Fangraphs.com, Holliday is expected to post a 122 wRC+ in 2017, which ranks him third among free agent designated hitters, behind Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. Given that both Encarnacion and Bautista are expected to land multi-year deals with an upwards of $20 million annually, the deal makes plenty of sense for the Yankees.
Projections also expect Holliday to outperform Carlos Beltran and Kendrys Morales this season, both of which have already been signed for more than what Holliday received. Additionally, the Yankees don’t have to surrender a draft pick to sign Holliday, which they would have had to do if they signed Encarnacion or Bautista.
Holliday serves as an emergency blanket if the Yankees need him at first base, as he played ten games at the position last season. However, Greg Bird is fully expected to be the everyday first baseman after missing all of last season following shoulder surgery. He could also play left field if needed, but let’s hope things don’t get to that point, as the 37-year-old is not what he used to be in the field.
The deal is justifiable for both sides, though it’s hard not to wonder whether or not Holliday could have gotten more money, or an additional year, had he waited longer. Now, Holliday will bet on himself to bounce back in 2017 before hitting free agency again, where he could potentially land a two-year deal if he proves to be a successful DH.
For the Yankees, they get the right-handed bat they so desperately needed, and they did it for a reasonable price that won’t come back to haunt them like previous deals they’ve done. They continue their youth movement while adding a veteran on a one-year pact. If all goes well, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Yankees bring him back in 2018.