Holliday to Oakland (Update)
The Oakland Athletics, a team that is neither particularly rich nor particularly close to contention, were close to pulling off the first blockbuster trade of baseball's offseason yesterday, plucking away slugging left fielder Matt Holliday from the Colorado Rockies in a stunning deal that would only enhance the reputation of A's General Manager Billy Beane for creative roster-building.
In return for Holliday, 28, the Rockies reportedly would get closer Huston Street, starting pitcher Greg Smith and outfielder Carlos Gonzalez. The trade remains unofficial pending physicals for the involved players.
Holliday, on the surface, seems like a questionable fit for the small-budget A's, in that he is set to earn $13.5 million in 2009 -- roughly a quarter of the A's 2008 total payroll -- before reaching free agency, and there seems little chance the A's could lock him up to a long-term deal before then. He reportedly turned down an offer of four years, $68 million from the Rockies.
The majority of Beane's biggest deals have been veterans-for-prospects salary dumps, such as the ones that sent away Tim Hudson (2004), Mark Mulder (2004) and Dan Haren (2007). However, in recent years Beane has embraced the concept of one-year commitments to big-name players, including Frank Thomas in 2006 and Mike Piazza in 2007.
With Holliday, 28, Beane could attempt to position the A's for a run at the American League West title in 2009 -- they finished 24 1/2 games behind the Los Angeles Angels this season -- or turn around and flip him for prospects, either this winter or next July if they fail to contend. If the A's, who scored the fewest runs in the AL this season, hold on to Holliday for the full season, they would stand to collect two top draft picks as compensation if he signs elsewhere as a free agent.
Also, the financial impact of Holliday's arrival in Oakland would be lessened somewhat by the departure of Street, who stands to earn around $5 million next season via arbitration.
Multiple other teams, including the Washington Nationals, had inquired with the Rockies about Holliday's availability, and at one point the St. Louis Cardinals appeared favorites to land him.
Holliday's true value is subject to debate. Although he is a two-time all-star and the runner-up for the 2007 NL most valuable player award, his statistics appear to have been inflated by playing at Denver's high-altitude Coors Field. For his career, his home OPS (on-base plus slugging) of 1.068 is more than 200 points higher than his .803 mark on the road.
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