Matt Holliday is emerging as an NL MVP candidate

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It’s time Matt Holliday starts getting his due as one of the game’s very best hitters.

Holliday went 4-for-5 with a double, a triple and four RBI as the Cardinals topped the Reds 8-2 today to move within six games of the NL Central lead. The Cardinals are currently in position as the No. 2 wild card, with the Dodgers and Pirates nipping at their heels.

Holliday upped his RBI total to 89, wrestling the NL lead away from teammate Carlos Beltran and the Brewers’ Ryan Braun. With an average 37 points higher that Beltran’s, he’s probably going to be recognized as the Cardinals’ best MVP candidate at season’s end. Yadier Molina also has a case, but even though he’s the league’s premier defensive catcher, it’s going to be hard for him to catch the voters’ attention when his power numbers are likely to come in well below Holliday’s and fellow catcher Buster Posey’s.

Holliday is currently batting .309/.384/.527. If the season ended today, he’d be the only player in baseball to post a .900+ OPS in each of the last seven years. Albert Pujols has also done it six in a row and may well make it seven, but he’s sitting at .877 right now. Miguel Cabrera has done it every year but one: he barely missed in 2008, coming in at .887.

Holliday did go to a sixth All-Star Game this year, but he’s finished in the thick of the MVP race just once; a 2007 season in which he hit .340-36-137 for the Rockies and ended up in second place. If he leads the league in RBI, he’s destined for a top-five finish this year, and rightly or wrongly, he’ll probably have a good chance of winning it if his Cardinals reach the postseason and Andrew McCutchen and Posey stay home.

The Phillies plan to spend money and “maybe even be a little bit stupid about it”

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In an age in which even baseball’s richest teams talk about tight budgets and keeping payroll low, it’s pretty rare to hear anyone connected with a front office talking about freely spending money. Phillies owner John Middleton, however, offered up something rare about the team’s approach to free agency.

“We’re going into this expecting to spend money, and maybe even be a little bit stupid about it,” he told Bob Nightengale or USA Today. He then added, “we just prefer not to be completely stupid.” That save aside, it was a pretty unusual sentiment these days.

“Stupid” could certainly mean Bryce Harper, who the Phillies have long been expected to pursue. It could even mean Harper and Manny Machado. Why not? At the moment the Phillies’ payroll for 2019 is looking to be just a shade above $100 million, so even adding, say, $70 million to that would not put them in an unreasonable position compared to other competitors. And that’s before you figure in any sort of back-loading or deferred money that Harper and/or Machado might agree to.

Or, even if they didn’t get one or both of those guys, they could spend that same kind of money on multiple free agents. Patrick Corbin? Marwin Gonzalez? A handful of others? We counted down the top 100 free agents last week and any number of them could be acquired given the sort of payroll flexibility a large market team like the Phillies appear to have. It merely requires the will to do it. A will which, it seems, John Middleton possesses.

How novel.