As right-handed-hitting left fielders with big bats and questionable gloves Matt Holliday and Jason Bay have been linked together as free agents. Some teams like Holliday more than Bay, some teams like Bay more than Holliday, and whatever the case one has often been described as an alternative to the other.
Now that the market for both players has narrowed considerably, I thought it would be a good time to examine whether the 30-year-old Holliday or the 31-year-old Bay is more valuable. Simply comparing their raw numbers is misleading because Holliday called Coors Field home for five seasons and hit .357 with a 1.068 OPS at the majors’ most hitter-friendly ballpark, so let’s dig a bit deeper.
Holliday hit .280 with an .803 OPS on the road during his time in Colorado and then basically matched that non-Coors Field production by hitting .286 with an .831 OPS in Oakland. However, he then went nuts after being traded to St. Louis, batting .353 with a 1.023 OPS in 63 games. His true talent level may be tough to decipher from that, but Baseball-Reference.com has a stat called adjusted OPS+ that normalizes a hitter’s production by essentially taking leagues and ballparks out of the picture.
ADJUSTED OPS+ CAREER 2009 2008
Matt Holliday 133 139 138
Jason Bay 131 134 134
Holliday has a career adjusted OPS+ of 133, including 139 last season and 138 in 2008. By comparison Bay has a career adjusted OPS+ of 131, including 134 in each of the past two seasons. Based on those marks it seems clear that Holliday is a slightly better hitter, although both rank among the top 20 or so bats in MLB. And sure enough over the past two seasons Fan Graphs pegs Holliday as worth 41 runs above average per 600 plate appearances offensively, compared to 36 runs above average for Bay.
In other words Holliday has been about five runs better per season offensively and because he’s a year younger that figures to continue. Examining their defense is also somewhat tricky because while both players have poor reputations in left field the advanced defensive metrics see them as significantly different. Ultimate Zone Rating pegs Bay as 8.0 runs below average per 150 games for his career, including 14.7 runs below average per 150 games since his knee problems in 2007.
On the other hand per 150 games UZR shows Holliday as 6.9 runs above average for his career, including 8.5 runs above average per 150 games in the past two seasons. Given their similar defensive reputations some people may find it hard to believe that Holliday is that much better than Bay in left field, but even if the true gap in gloves was, say, 10 runs instead of 20-25 runs that’s still big. Tack on Holliday’s edge offensively and he’s at least 10-15 runs better per season and perhaps as many as 25-30 runs ahead of Bay.
At first glance they may look the same because of their many similarities, but Hollliday is a better hitter and better fielder along with being a year younger. He’s a superior player and more desirable free agent target.
Last summer we posted about Rafael Palmeiro coming out of retirement to play for the independent league Sugar Land Skeeters. The reason: to play a game with his boy Patrick. In that game the elder Palmeiro went 2-for-4 with an RBI, a walk, and a run scored. His son, who is now 26, went 2-for-4 with a grand slam.
Did that serve as an audition for Patrick? Possibly, as Jon Meloi of the Baltimore Sun reports that the Orioles just signed him to a minor league deal.
As Meloi notes, it’s certainly just an organizational depth move, as Patrick is no prospect. And it’s actually likely something of a coincidence that it’s the Orioles who signed him, as Palmeiro doesn’t have any real contacts with the Orioles baseball operations people, all of whom are different folks now than back in his day.
This may not be the last of the Palmeiros, by the way. Peter Gammons tweeted this morning that Patrick’s younger brother, Preston, is a first baseman at North Carolina State who could be drafted this june. Gammons says he has a swing “remarkably similar to dad.”
Steve Gilbert of MLB.com reports that the Diamondbacks and outfielder A.J. Pollock have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a two-year extension. The deal is worth $10.25 million, per ESPN’s Buster Olney.
Pollock was arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter. The 28-year-old requested $3.9 million and was offered $3.65 million by the Diamondbacks when figures were exchanged on January 15. It wasn’t much of a gap, but the two sides were ultimately able to find common ground on a multi-year deal. Pollock will still be under team control for one more year after this new deal expires.
Pollock is coming off a breakout 2015 where he batted .315/.367/.498 with 20 home runs, 76 RBI, and 39 stolen bases over 157 games. He ranked sixth among position players with 7.4 WAR (Wins Above Replacement), according to Baseball Reference.
The Blue Jays and 2015 American League Most Valuable Player Josh Donaldson have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a two-year, $29 million contract, reports Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca.
Donaldson was arbitration-eligible for the second time this winter. He filed for $11.8 million and was offered $11.35 million by the Blue Jays when figures were exchanged last month. It wasn’t a big gap, but since the Blue Jays are a “file and trial” team, they bring these cases to an arbitration hearing unless a multi-year deal can be worked out. As opposed to last winter, they were able to avoid a hearing this time around. Donaldson was originally a Super Two player, so he’ll still have one year of arbitration-eligibility once this two-year deal is completed.
The 30-year-old Donaldson is coming off a monster first season in Toronto where he batted .297/.371/.568 with 41 homers while leading the American League with 123 RBI.
Brandon Belt filed for $7.5 million and was offered $5.3 million by the Giants when arbitration figures were exchanged last month. That’s a pretty sizable gap. While there’s still a chance that an agreement will be worked out at the last minute, Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that an arbitration hearing is scheduled for Wednesday.
The Giants haven’t gone to an arbitration hearing since 2004, when they lost to catcher A.J. Pierzynski. Schulman hears from one person involved that because of the gap between Belt and the Giants, there’s a real chance this will break that string and require a hearing.
Belt batted .280/.356/.478 with 18 home runs and 68 RBI over 137 games in 2015, but he dealt with concussion symptoms for the second straight season. An arbitration hearing could bring some unpleasant conversation to the surface.