What Matt Holliday Brings to New York
Matt Holliday turned 37 last month. So why did the rebuilding Yankees with plenty of young talent bring him on board?
For the past few years, the Designated Hitter position for the Yankees has been occupied by a player who lost their starting job in the field but continues to collect a big paycheck. Alex Rodriguez belted 33 home runs from the DH position and should have won Comeback Player of the Year. However, 2016 was another story. A-Rod was cut loose before the season ended and Brian McCann took over the role for the remainder of the campaign. McCann has since been shipped off to Houston, where he is now teammates with former Yankees DH Carlos Beltran. Beltran was a popular candidate to return to the Bronx in 2017 to be DH, but he signed a one-year, $16 million deal to stay in Houston.
Two days after Beltran signed, the Yankees made their move for their 2017 DH Matt Holliday. Holliday signed for one-year/$13 million. Last season, Holliday played 110 games for the St. Louis Cardinals. He had a slash line of .246/.322/.461 along with 20 HRs and 62 RBIs. While it was a down year for Holliday, (career averages of .303/.382/.515 along with 27 HR and 105 RBIs), this was still a very productive year for the now-37 year old. He played a majority of his games (84) in the outfield, something he will not be asked to do in New York. Holliday will receive most of his at bats at DH with maybe the occasional day in the field. If he never plays the field, that will be a good. It would mean that other players are healthy and playing well. It is a safe bet to say Holliday will play around 110–120 games and hit 20 home runs, something he has done 10 of the last 11 years, only missing those marks in 2015 due to injury.
While Holliday should be able to contribute some offensive production, his real value may be off the field. Holliday is no longer the All-Star player he once was for the Rockies and Cardinals. At 37, he has a few years left in the league at an average playing level. But he will be valuable as a leader and mentor to younger players.
Holliday made an impression with Yankees prospect Aaron Judge even before he signed with New York. Last season, Judge talked about taller MLB players who have a leg kick in their swing. He specifically said Matt Holliday was one of the players he studied when he made the move. Judge is now projected to be the everyday right fielder in the Bronx and will have Holliday in the dugout to help fine tune that powerful swing. Judge won’t be the only player to benefit from Holliday. Super prospect Clint Frazier will start the year in the minors so he knows that Spring Training will be an important time to learn from the veterans before the season starts. Holliday knows this as well. Last week Holliday saw Frazier eating lunch and pulled up a seat. The two players shared small talk. Holliday then took control of the conversation to teach the 22-year-old a thing or two about playing in spotlight. Here is what Frazier had to say about the conversation (from to NJ.com):
“We talked about some things that can help me grow as a man,” Frazier said. “For him to kind of put his arm around me and put me under his wing … he gave me some help that I needed this morning. It’s a testimony to what kind of man he is. I’m not only excited to watch him play, but I’m excited for him to help me grow as a person and a player and as a man.”
It’s moments like this that show the true value of the Matt Holliday signing for New York. The Yankees are planning for the future and having veteran leadership around them will be a key factor in finding out how long it will take for this team to contend again.
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