5:53pm: Holliday has issued a statement thanking the organization, his teammates, and the fans for his time with the Cards, via MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch. He, too, kept the door cracked for a return but acknowledged that this could be the end of his tenure. (The statement, notably, does not seem to indicate whether or not Holliday has decided whether he’ll continue playing.)
“It has been an honor to play in front of such great fans and for such an historic organization,” says Holliday. “I can honestly say it has been a dream come true. While I’m disappointed this could be it here in St. Louis, I understand that it might be time to move on.”
5:38pm: The Cardinals anticipate declining the club’s 2017 option over outfielder Matt Holliday, per GM John Mozeliak, as Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch was among those to report. (Jon Heyman of Today’s Knuckleball noted earlier this week that the Cardinals do not plan to pick up the option.) Holliday will, however, be activated from the DL in the hopes that he can make at least one final appearance before the St. Louis faithful.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that Holliday won’t return, of course, but it’s not really known whether there’s serious interest on either side in negotiating a new contract. That the team appears to be giving the long-time star a sendoff suggests the sides could be preparing for a split, but GM John Mozeliak wasn’t willing to rule out a continuation of what has been a productive relationship.
“Speaking in absolutes and saying there’s no chance of him coming back — I’m not prepared to do that,” said Mozeliak. “We haven’t had our offseason meetings.”
Ulimately, the Cards were never particularly likely to pick up the option for the veteran’s age-37 season at a heavy $17MM salary. But the decision to pay a $1MM buyout instead became clear given Holliday’s middling output and injury troubles down the stretch.
Holliday remains an above-average hitter, though his .242/.318/.450 batting line represents a rather stark falloff in overall productivity from the consistently excellent batting results he logged for most of a dozen prior seasons. With poorly-rated fielding and baserunning added to the uncertainty at the plate, the cost was just too great.
Still, there’s plenty of reason to think that Holliday could remain a useful player — even if a trip to the American League, with frequent or even full-time DH usage, makes the most sense at this stage. Odds are that there would be plenty of organizations with at least some interest in that kind of arrangement, particularly given the high regard in which Holliday is held around baseball.
For the Cards, who say they’re looking to improve on defense, Holliday is something of an odd fit moving forward. If he is willing to accept a reduced role, he might still remain a plenty useful piece by sharing time at first base, appearing occasionally in the corner outfield, and otherwise functioning as a bench bat. But regular playing time probably won’t be on the table, as the team seems lined up to add a replacement or instead to acquire a new center fielder while bumping Randal Grichuk to the corner.
It has been something of an odd final two seasons in St. Louis for Holliday. Both have been limited by injuries, and both have involved very different types of performance issues. Last year, his power disappeared, but he was able to maintain a robust .394 OBP. That mark fell by 76 points in 2016, but he significantly upped his power output (.450 slugging, 19 home runs).
No matter where things go from here, it has been a great run for Holliday with the Cards. In eight years and over 4,000 plate appearances, Holliday carries an outstanding .292/.379/.493 batting line with 155 long balls. Ultimately, he was worth every penny of the seven-year, $120MM contract he signed before the 2010 season.