We may be in the heart of the NFL Playoff Race, but that doesn’t mean that baseball can’t get a little bit of love in the month of December. Yesterday, my New York Yankees signed outfielder Matt Holliday to a one-year $13 million contract, where he will most likely serve as the team’s designated hitter for the 2017 season. For next year alone, I love this move for the Yankees, but I also think it’s an even better deal for the team as they get closer to the 2018 offseason, which will include some big name free agents.
The 2017 New York Yankees remain a bit of a mystery to me. I love all of the young talent that they brought up from the minors last year after they started unloading everyone at the trade deadline, but there are still a lot of question marks with the team. What does Gary Sanchez have for us as an encore in his first full season after playing out of his mind in just 53 games last year as a rookie (should have been Rookie of the Year, but that’s for another time)? What other bats are going to provide some power in the lineup? Which of the younger players is going to take the next step forward (looking at you Aaron Judge)? And who the hell is going to be in the starting rotation? A lot of these questions won’t be answered until the season starts, but the signing of Matt Holliday will help put a little bit of extra pop in the Yankees’ lineup.
This was not the sexiest of signings by the Bronx Bombers, but it was a necessary signing. By signing Holliday to just a one-year deal, they will still have money to go out and spend on (hopefully) bringing back Aroldis Chapman to move him to the closer role, and Dellin Betances back to the setup man position where he thrived in the past. It’s also a great signing because although he’s not the player he once used to be, Holliday still hit 20 home runs and drove in 62 RBIs last season, which will be a nice addition to a Yankees lineup that struggled with power last year. The veteran presence that Holliday will bring to a young clubhouse also cannot go overlooked. Holliday made two World Series appearances with the St. Louis Cardinals, winning one of them, so a player with that type of winning pedigree is key for a young team that is still learning how to win.
Although it’s a good move for the upcoming season, it’s an even better move for the Yankees as they prep for the future. Designated Hitter Edwin Encarnacion was one of two best hitters available in free agency this year, and although he’s hit at least 34 home runs and drove in 98 RBIs over the last five seasons, he’s also about to turn 34 and is demanding a $100 million contract. I initially talked myself into being okay with the Yankees signing him because while I think he could have put up some big numbers in the hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium, they also had to learn from their mistakes in the past by giving big contracts to players in their 30s. SO while it’ll suck having to face him, it’s a good thing that they aren’t tied up to him for the next four to five seasons. That brings us to the Free Agent Class of 2018, headlined by Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. They’re two of the best players in the game today, and they’re also both under the age of 25. When that offseason rolls around, the Yankees will not only have an Encarnacion contract not on their books, but the CC Sabathia and Alex Rodriguez contracts will also be off their books, freeing up a TON of money for the Yanks to spend. I love how the Yankees are trying to get away from giving out big contracts left and right like they have done in years past, but the problem with those contracts was that they were giving them to players in their 30s. Harper and Machado will both be 26 (I think) when they are free agents in two years, with still many prime years left ahead of them. I don’t know if the Yankees could get both of them, but if they could get one to pair with Sanchez, it could mean trouble for the MLB for years to come.
I don’t expect Matt Holliday to put up all-star numbers as he has in years past, but I do see him being a key contributor to the Yankees’ offense this year, while also keeping the clubhouse intact. Once 2018 rolls around, bypassing on Encarnacion for Holliday could pay off big time if the Yankees are able to land Harper or Machado. Guess we’ll just have to wait and see.