Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday has been on the shelf for over a month since fracturing his right thumb Aug. 11, and it appeared earlier this week he was on the verge of returning. That’s no longer the case, however, as Holliday’s thumb swelled up Saturday and forced him to cancel a scheduled simulated game, per Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com. The swelling occurred a day after Holliday took batting practice, and now there’s concern that he won’t be able to make it back during the regular season to potentially help a St. Louis team that’s two games out of a National League wild-card spot.
Holliday, who had a screw inserted in his thumb Aug. 16, was in the midst of an uncharacteristically pedestrian season before suffering the injury. The 36-year-old has slugged 19 home runs after hitting just four in 2015, but his .242/.318/.450 line in 424 plate appearances is the worst of his career. Part of the problem for Holliday has been a decrease in walks. The 13th-year man posted double-digit walk rates in each season from 2008-15, including a career-best 14.1 percent mark last year (albeit in only 73 games). He’s at 8.3 percent this season, which has helped his on-base percentage tumble 76 points from a year ago.
While Holliday has gone backward in 2016, he was still a useful part of the Redbirds’ offense when healthy. In his stead, the club has mostly turned to Brandon Moss in left field. Moss has outproduced Holliday this year, but his output has dropped off significantly in the second half of the season. During a crucial September for St. Louis, Moss has hit an unsightly .085/.173/.213 in 52 trips to the plate.
If Holliday is unable to return this year, it’s conceivable the seventh-year Cardinal has taken his final at-bat with the club, notes Langosch. The Cardinals can bring back Holliday in 2017 on a $17MM club option, but that will likely be an unpalatable figure for an aging player coming off an injury. St. Louis could also decline the option and work out a less expensive deal with Holliday if it wishes to retain him.