For the New York Yankees, the services of 36-year old Matt Holliday was the ideal signing Cashman could have made for the DH position. 

Not the move you expecting, huh?

Yes, in the midst of a rebuild, the New York Yankees inked left fielder and (likely) designated hitter Matt Holliday to a one-year, $13 million contract on Sunday night.

Holliday, who will be 37 by the time Opening Day rolls around, slashed .246/.322/.461 in 110 games for the St. Louis Cardinals this past season while also hitting 20 doubles, 20 home runs and 62 RBI’s.

A four-time Silver Slugger award winner, Holliday took home the 2007 NL Championship Series MVP, the year he batted .340 and won the batting title for the NL pennant-winning Rockies.

His career .897 on-base plus slugging percentage ranks ninth among active players and is five home runs away from the 300 mark.

The hunt for a designated hitter commenced once last month’s trade of Brian McCann to the Astros went down and while many seem discouraged by the fact that Holliday was chosen over the game-changing bat of Edwin Encarnacion and the NL home run co-leader in Chris Davis, this move made the most sense for New York.

For starters, there is a serious lack of power that needs to be relieved if the Bombers want to compete.

In three of the last four years, the Yankees have not had anyone in their lineup hit 30 home runs and it serves as no coincidence that these teams are the only Yankee to miss postseason play in the 21st century.

The last player to hit 40 home runs in a year was Curtis Granderson in 2012 while the last right-handed batter to do so was Alex Rodriguez in 2007.

Will Holliday come over and mash 40+ home runs? I’m not putting my money on it, but the team’s overall slugging percentage (.405) ranked 21st in major league baseball in 2016 — 56 points lower than Holliday’s “down year.”

Also, when looking a little deeper in his so-called “down year,” there are certain aspects one needs to take into consideration.

For one, his average exit velocity, according to MLB.com’s Stat Cast sat at 95.26 m.p.h. in 2016, with the league average sitting at 89.57. His generated velocity also trumped league average by 6.26.

He also suffered a fractured right thumb that needed surgery in a year ago and still hit 20 homers. He has a lot left, especially in the sandbox of Yankee Stadium.

Secondly, and most importantly, his batting average on balls in play drop of 82 points a year ago insinuates that Holliday, who’s a career .291 hitter at Yankee Stadium, was unlucky particularly considering his line drive rate increased.

This doesn’t mean he’s the game changer Encarnacion would have been nor does it mean that I don’t believe that 25-year old Tyler Austin could have provided that same flexibility at first base and left field, but Holliday does a little more for the organization’s contemporary position.

The Yankees already have $136 million on the books for next season and an estimated $40 million will be added after arbitration, salaries for non-arbitration players and insurance premiums.

Though he will likely exceed the luxury tax this season, Cashman, who will see $46 million come off the books by next year thanks to Alex Rodriguez and CC Sabathia, could get underneath the threshold before the 2018 season.

Once they get beneath the threshold, their tax rate will subsequently be reset. Rather than paying 50% for exceeding the threshold, Steinbrenner and co. will only be taxed 20%.

Holliday’s $13 million will be on the books for 2017 and not a day longer meaning there is an increased chance that they’ll have room to work with when the stacked free agent class of ’18, ’19 with Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Clayton Kershaw, Josh Donaldson and more are projected to hit the open market.

Encarnacion would not only hinder that plan but also cost the Yankees their 17th pick in this year’s first-year player draft. 

In 2015, they took young stud James Kaprielian with the 16th pick and selected the highly touted Blake Rutherford with the 18th pick this year.

That being said, they’d unmistakably like to retain that pick, which sits right in the middle of 16 and 18, to continue to support that wave of youth that has made the Yankees such an assuring threat in the long run.

Holliday could also further New York’s pursuance of shaving their veteran talent off the roster. C’mon, how can a 36-year old do that? Well, it’s quite simple.

This signing likely doesn’t imply they are contemplating a deal involving left fielder Brett Gardner, but if that’s a route they choose to pursue, Holliday as Gardner’s replacement for a year as a placeholder for Clint Frazier isn’t far-fetched.

The 33-year-old left fielder has two years and $25 million dwelling on what’s considered to be a decently fair contract which includes a club option of $12.5 million for 2019 and a $2 million buyout.

His production — in the top-10 in walks, runs scored, hits, triples, and stolen bases among Yankees’ hitters since 1990 — and recent gold glove should warrant some trade interest from others and with questions on whether or not Aaron Hicks will have to play right in case Aaron Judge never figures it out.

Holliday, although fits the ideal category as a DH/first baseman in the Bronx, has played 1,698 games in left including 84 games there a year ago and could certainly be a viable option out in left.

Again, this doesn’t mean Gardner talks will expedite, but it’s less likely to hurt the team in which he led in runs created a year ago.

Scouts told the NY Post that Holliday “isn’t a good outfielder,” and his career defensive runs saved above average of negative two supports that but his ability to perhaps play one or two games in the field a week is only a smidge of what he offers to the young kids coming up.

Beyond the statistics, they are banking on Holliday, who has 72 games of postseason experience under his belt, to provide an outstanding leader in the clubhouse — a reputation that he has built since his major league debut in 2004.

Not the most graceful outfielder and only played 10 games at first base, yet, out of all the options on the market for the DH position, Holliday is one of the few that won’t hinder the youth movement with his short commitment and could have a tremendous say in the power outage that the “Bronx Bummers” have encountered recently.

And again, the leadership of a former batting champion could do wonders for a team in year two of a rebuild craving nothing but growth.




 

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