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Cardinals, Holliday agree to a contract

From Dave Sheinin:

Left fielder Matt Holliday, the top slugger in a mostly forgettable free agent class, agreed in principle Tuesday to a seven-year contract worth about $119 million to return to the St. Louis Cardinals.

Holliday himself reported the agreement in an interview on ESPN Radio, saying, "Going into free agency, I had in the back of my mind that I really liked St. Louis and felt it was a good fit for me and my family."

The deal, which is believed to pay Holliday $17 million annually over the next seven seasons and includes a team option for 2017, remains unofficial pending a physical exam.

For the Cardinals, the re-signing of Holliday, who turns 30 later this month, was as much about Albert Pujols, the National League's reigning most valuable player, as it was about Holliday himself.

In the seven weeks Holliday spent with the Cardinals in 2009, following a trade from Oakland, he complemented Pujols impeccably, hitting .353 with a 1.023 OPS (on-base plus slugging) out of the cleanup spot, one spot behind Pujols, as the Cardinals surged to the NL Central title.

More important, Pujols has publicly linked Holliday's situation to his own pending free agency following the 2011 season, dropping thinly veiled hints that the Cardinals' handling of Holliday would inform his own decision whether to remain in St. Louis or move on. The Cardinals, meantime, have made clear their intention to approach Pujols about an extension well before the best player of his generation reaches free agency.

Scott Boras, Holliday's agent, had hoped to land his client a deal similar to the eight-year $180 million contract he negotiated on behalf of another client, Mark Teixeira, with the New York Yankees a year ago. But those efforts were hampered by the fact none of the high-payroll American League behemoths -- the Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Angels -- showed serious interest in Holliday.

Still, Holliday's deal dwarfs that of fellow left fielder Jason Bay, considered the other "premium" free agent bat in this market, who last month signed a four-year $66 million deal with the New York Mets.

By washingtonpost.com Sports Editor  |  January 5, 2010; 7:11 PM ET
Categories:  Cardinals  
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