A Take on the Matt Holliday Trade

I predict three stars will be between this statement and my analysis

This being the internet, everyone and their mother wants the chance to give their two cents on everything, and I for one am not different. Looking around the blogosphere it seems that the general reaction is positive on the side of A's and negative from Cardinals' fans.

Well the first thing I want to look at it Matt Holliday as an upgrade for the Cardinals. The Cardinals left field this year has been an absolute mess. The birds have used 8 different players at the position (that's as many as they have had different starting pitchers this year.) Most of the playing time has been allocated to the recently departed Chris Duncan. Duncan was unable to replicate his past power potential, or batting average he displayed in the past. Add in his usual poor defense and wish him luck at producing at an above replacement level in Boston, something he was not able to do in St. Louis. Add in the Ankiels, the Stavinohas of the world and for the year the Cardinals have gotten a (approximately) .301 wOBA and an UZR of -7.3 out of the position, miserable by any standard short of the Cleveland Spiders.

Matt Holliday brings a lot of remedy to the situation. While his hitting has dropped off from the Colorado days, he has looked pretty good after a miserable April. Even without adjusting for that he is bringing a .368 wOBA and 125 OPS+ to St. Louis which would make him the 2nd best hitter on the Cardinals. Obviously Holliday has some upside over those numbers because of how badly he played the first month plus going from the AL to the NL I think projecting him to put up a .385 wOBA the rest of the way seems pretty reasonable. Add in the career +7.1 UZR/150 and you are looking at a 2.5-3 win bump for Cardinals going forward in a division where they lead by 1.5 games and are behind a couple teams if they were looking for the Wild Card. Holliday makes the Cardinals a good bet to make the playoffs.

There are also additional benefits that Holliday brings to the Cardinals, albeit less tangible ones. First there are the two potential draft picks for a Type A free agent should Holliday leave at the end of the season. Victor Wang at hardball times has been getting a lot of good blog press for predicting the value of these two draft picks at about 5 million dollars but I really don't like to think of it in those terms.

There is also a pretty good chance Holliday doesn't test the free agent market this year and accepts arbitration to reestablish his super-star value. Holliday probably ends the years as a 6+ WAR player which using the standard 4.5 million dollars per win formula would put his "value" at 27 million dollars a year. Let's get something straight, Matt Holliday will not make 27 million dollars a year salary as a free agent. He would not make that much in this economy, he would not make this much in a normal economy, he wouldn't make this much using whatever reasonable discount rate you use with net present value. I personally think Holliday was nuts to turn down the 20.5 million a year the Rockies offered because I don't think he will (or would have) get that anywhere else, I might be wrong, Boras and company obviously thought so, but especially now I think Holliday would get 17 million a year or so on the free agent market long term. So back to the reasonable chance of Holliday signing a one year deal or accepting arbitration (barring a Beltran-like playoff run) it looks like a good chance the Cardinals of getting a second year of Holliday at less then market value. Add in the possible positive spill-over effects of Holliday in the line-up adding another half a win or so Holliday's value to the Cardinals has a good chance of being significantly higher then just his straight production alone this year.

If you are still reading, I admire your attention span

Now on to the booty of the trade. Brett Wallace was a first rounder for the Cardinals last year out of ASU. He raked after signing last year and vaulted him to being the top prospect in the St. Louis system after the graduated Colby Rasmus. Wallace has come back down to earth this year while still holding his own up as high as triple a ball. Wallace is a good prospect but not without questions. First off is where does his bat really lie? He really hasn't produced great this year and his career minor league OPS is .856 which is good for 1st baseman and very good for a 3rd baseman, but his current AAA line is poor for a 1st baseman and a little above average for a 3rd baseman. At 22 he certainly has time to get even better though, so reading too much into his batting is probably going to lead to underselling his future bat.

Next of course is whether or not he will be able to handle 3rd base long term. There is no way to get around it, Wallace is big, listed at 6-2 235 he is going to be pressed stay at the hot corner (Thome was listed at 6'4" 220 and only lasted two full years at the position) and listed height and weight tends to have players as taller then they actually are and slimmer then they actually are. There are some that questioned whether Wallace would have been a 1st baseman in college were it not for first rounder Ike Davis also being on the team. Bigger guys have been able to handle the position in the past but I for one put him at 50/50 for playing more then a full big league season at 3rd and the chances of him playing it for the majority of his career at 10% or so. As a 3rd baseman he would be a much better prospect.

Next is something that I have not seen questioned in the media but is a concern for me. I have an acquaintance that actually plays for ASU and he told me stories that lead me to question Wallace's maturity. He told me that at least on a couple occasions Wallace and a teammate would come to practice drunk and the coached called him out for not working hard enough. The only thing I could find on his make-up was a blurb on Baseball America saying that he was great to interview so my concerns could be completely unfounded college kid stuff. 

So after three paragraphs that probably show that I am not super high on Wallace I still want to reiterate that he is a great prospect, but these are the reasons I don't buy the Cardinal fan's reaction that giving up Wallace alone was too much for Holliday let alone other players.

The other two players I don't know much about other then other people's reports and their stat lines and I have never seen either of them play that I recall. Shane Peterson is out of Long Beach State. He has shown good plate patience but little power in his couple years in pro ball. He also is showing less power, batting average, and plate discipline every time he ascends a level in the system. Clayton Mortensen is a groundball pitcher with decent strikeouts, a little high of walks and a little too hittable while in the minors but is never the less is pretty much major league ready and has some upside as a back of the rotation starter.

So after all of this I have concluded that I like this trade for the Cardinals, I don't think that they overpaid to get what is probably the best positional player on the market. I think he is what they need to make sure they stay atop the Central. That being said I also like the trade for the A's. Those 3 wins above replacement weren't going to do them any good this year, they probably weren't going to get the value of Brett Wallace with compensation picks, they have some interesting corner outfielders who they can now take a better look at, and they got to save some cash. And of course there is always the chance that St. Louis gets creamed on this deal if Wallace turns out to be Prince Fielder or Aramis Ramirez, and Mortensen could end up being a Dallas Braden, and even Peterson could up being something more then 4th outfielder.

I guess the best way to put this is that I that I like this trade from the Cardinals standpoint, and I don't think there is anything to be mad about from the Oakland side of things.

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