Buster Olney recently handicapped the Matt Holliday sweepstakes that are sure to ensue the second free agency opens following the 2009 season. He mentions the Angels and Red Sox as the top two suitors, being that both could use a middle of the order type bat, and has the Yankees in third:
3. YANKEES: The contracts of Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui will expire after this season, so the Yankees will be in a position to take a run at Holliday — and if the team doesn’t make the playoffs again, the Yankees will be under enormous pressure to sign the slugger. If you think the right-handed hitting Holliday wouldn’t be a good fit in Yankee Stadium, well, there are long-term scouts who would vehemently disagree with you.
“You know how [Derek] Jeter flips his home runs over the right-field wall?” asked one scout. “That’s exactly how Holliday would hit in Yankee Stadium, except in much greater volume. His swing is perfect for Yankee Stadium.”
Jeter might be the X factor. At some point over the next 18 months, the Yankees may well approach him about shifting away from shortstop. He cannot move to third base, because of Alex Rodriguez, and Teixeira is locked in as the first baseman for the next eight years. It’s unlikely the Yankees would consider moving Jeter to second base, because the questions about whether he would have suitable range to play the middle infield will still stand.
So if Jeter is to continue playing with the Yankees, it would probably have to be in left or right field, given that he will turn 36 in June 2010. That looming issue shouldn’t be a consideration as the Yankees think of ways to improve for next season, but the reality is that political concerns were at the root of the club’s decisions to essentially overpay Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada and A-Rod in the winter of 2007-08.
No matter how well Holliday’s swing may fit in Yankee Stadium, I think there are a variety of factors that should keep the Yankees away from him. Firstly, the Jeter issue does suggest that locking a left fielder up with a long term contract may not be the most prudent move for a team that may need to find a position for their captain within the not so distant future. Furthermore, the availability of Jason Bay and Manny Ramirez gives the Yankees cheaper and shorter-term options, especially if the market for outfielders remains depressed. The Yankees already have two legitimate middle of the order hitters, and would be fine if they supplemented those players with a hitter such as Bay. While Holliday is a significantly better defensive player than both Ramirez and Bay, the added flexibility that the Yankees would be gaining by eschewing another long term deal makes that sacrifice worth it. Holliday is much more valuable to the Angels and Red Sox, two teams with aging middle of the order hitters who can use a player of Matt’s caliber. For once, the Yankees should pass.
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