You know the story by now: a veteran comes to St. Louis, loves it there, wins some games, falls for all of that “best fans in baseball business” and decides to make it a home. Jim Edmonds is the best example of it. Come to think of it, he might be the only significant example. Still, that meme seems to hold true for some reason, at least in the minds of Cardinal fans.
A lot of people figured that Matt Holliday might fit that profile too. Financially speaking he probably screwed up in not taking the Rockies’ last contract offer, and he was more or less lost in Oakland the first part of this year, making him a less attractive free agent in the minds of many. Plus he has Scott Boras for an agent, making things even more prickly. Given his post-trade surge, he seems like a great candidate to say “hey, this is a great situation! I have Albert Pujols hitting in front of me, fans who love me, and a lot of weak NL Central pitching to feast on. I’m staying!”
Not so fast says ESPN’s Buster Olney (sorry; link is to Insider material). Olney takes a look at the Cardinals’ business plan over the past few years and makes a pretty good case that Holliday will not be seriously pursued by the club. St. Louis doesn’t seem to want a $100M+ payroll if they can help it, they’re going to sign DeRosa, and Pujols, Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright are going to get more expensive over the course of any hypothetical Matt Holliday deal.
Olney thinks that leaves Holliday the odd man out. In fact, he thinks Holliday will sign with the Angels. I’m inclined to agree with the “Holliday won’t come back” part, but you have to figure that Anaheim wasn’t all that impressed by what they saw of him while he played for the A’s. Plus, you have to figure that Holliday will want to stay in NL given his little jaunt around the junior circuit this summer.
As for the Cardinals, if they don’t bring him back, I presume that they’ll keep up the same old model: see if they can win with Albert, some pitching and a prayer. If that’s not working by July, they’ll rent a bat for the second half, and hope that the Cubs don’t figure things out in the meantime.
Not a bad plan, really. Especially the part that depends on the Cubs to self-destruct at one point or another.