The Cardinals received some bad news tonight, as outfielder Matt Holliday was diagnosed with a fractured right thumb, per Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (via Twitter). He left tonight’s action after being struck by a pitch.
[Related: Updated Cardinals Depth Chart]
While the prognosis remains unknown, the loss of Holliday even for a few weeks would constitute a significant blow to a St. Louis organization that is battling for a post-season berth. While the division may well be out of reach, the Cards are in position for a Wild Card spot, but face several tough competitors to make it into the one-game playoff.
Holliday, 36, hasn’t produced to his typical levels thus far with a .241/.315/.451 slash over 419 plate appearances. Though he has regained the power he didn’t show last year — he already has 19 home runs — the veteran’s typical on-base abilities have been lacking. After posting double-digit walk percentages for each of the last eight years, Holliday has slipped to an 8.1% mark thus far in 2016. He has also been stung by a .250 BABIP despite a healthy 38.8% hard-hit ratio.
Despite those relative struggles, there’s plenty of reason to believe that Holliday is capable of putting up quality numbers. Indeed, after a rough month of July, he has hit more like himself through the first two weeks of August. Whether a full turnaround is in the cards may now have to wait.
In the near term, the Cardinals’ flexibility will be reduced — particularly with first baseman Matt Adams and also shortstop Aledmys Diaz already on the DL. Tommy Pham and Randal Grichuk represent right-handed-hitting outfield options to go with Stephen Piscotty, with Brandon Moss and Jeremy Hazelbaker available from the left side. Without Adams and Holliday in the mix, though, the club’s match-up options are greatly reduced.
Looking beyond this season, the injury only heightens the uncertainty surrounding Holliday’s future in St. Louis. He is controllable via a $17MM club option that comes with a $1MM buyout, and it was already unclear whether that would be exercised. It’s a hefty pay rate, but one that is unquestionably worth it for a typical Holliday season. After all, he carries a .292/.379/.493 slash over his eight years with the Cards. Even with his output dipping of late, Holliday was a well-above-average hitter before the present season. But without the chance to observe his play down the stretch, the investment becomes all the more questionable.