Adam Wainwright: "I can't think of a better combo in baseball (than Matt Holliday and Albert Pujols). You may just have to walk both of them."

January 5, 2010: Cardinals sign Matt Holliday to a record seven-year contract

It took longer than either side was entirely comfortable with, but in the end, the Cardinals got their man.

On January 5, 2010, Matt Holliday agreed to a deal that would keep him in St. Louis through the 2016 season and gave the Cardinals a pair of franchise cornerstone sluggers in Holliday and Albert Pujols for at least the next two seasons. Holliday’s seven-year, $120 million contract represented the largest contract in team history.

“I can’t think of a better combo in baseball. You may just have to walk both of them,” said 28-year-old starting pitcher Adam Wainwright, who had just enjoyed a breakout 19-win season in 2009. “Matt’s a great teammate. I’m looking forward to finishing our careers together in St. Louis. No pressure, Mr. DeWitt.”[1]

Pressure had been building on both the Cardinals and Holliday to get something completed. The day before the two sides agreed to a new contract, manager Tony La Russa admitted that if there was an agreement to be reached, it would come that week.

“I think we’ve made it clear how much we want to keep him,” La Russa said. “At some point you have to go in one direction or the other.”[2]

At the 2009 trading deadline, the Cardinals had acquired Holliday in exchange for top third base prospect Brett Wallace, minor-league pitcher Clayton Mortensen, and outfield prospect Shane Peterson. In 63 games with the Cardinals, Holliday hit .353 with 13 homers and 55 RBIs. His .353/.419/.604 batting line gave him a 1.023 OPS over 63 games with the Cardinals.

“When you look at our farm system, we don’t have this kind of talent coming up any time soon,” Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said. “When you look at could we go out and do another trade … that’s difficult. You couple all that in and that’s what really pushed us to get this deal done. When you look long range, it made sense to secure a player like this because they just don’t come around that often.”[3]

That was easier said than done.

The Cardinals made their first official offer at the winter meetings in Indianapolis. There, La Russa surprised Holliday’s agent, Scott Boras, by accompanying Mozeliak during a visit to Boras’s suite and expressing how crucial he viewed Holliday to what the Cardinals were building.

“It was helpful,” Boras said. “I really understood what Tony’s perception of Matt was, which, frankly, was largely what our perception was of Matt. Once I knew the organization understood that … not a lot needed to be said about who Matt Holliday was.”[4]

Building upon the Cardinals’ initial offer, the two sides negotiated through the holidays. As they continued to iron out the framework for a deal, they also explored their options. The Red Sox made a five-year offer for Holliday’s services, but the outfielder turned it down.[5]

The Cardinals, meanwhile, continued to stay in touch with Mark DeRosa about returning to St. Louis. DeRosa, however, recognized that Holliday was the team’s true priority and signed a two-year, $12 million contract with the Giants.[6]

The Cardinals also remained interested in signing third basemen Felipe Lopez or Miguel Tejada should they prove unable to sign Holliday.[7] The team admitted, however, that the free-agent market didn’t include another slugger of Holliday’s caliber.[8]

In a sign that Holliday was ready to make his decision, Boras invited Cardinals Chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. and Mozeliak to join him in Austin, near Holliday’s home, for face-to-face negotiations shortly after New Year’s Day. After three days of discussions in Austin, the two sides were close, but the deal still wasn’t complete.

“I still don’t think it’s done by any means,” Mozeliak said. “People have to be cautious about their level of optimism, but I’d like to think the time spent was productive.”[9]

Mozeliak, who had anticipated leaving Austin with a deal in place, later admitted to feeling a tinge of doubt when the deal wasn’t finalized. Boras, however, felt that the Austin meetings all but completed the negotiations. [10]

“There definitely were some things during the process that started to go one way then go the other a little bit. There were highs and lows,” Holliday said. “You hope you’re getting close and then something happens and it doesn’t seem close anymore. At times it was emotionally draining. You want it to be over. You have a lot of friends and family wanting to know what’s going on and a lot of times you don’t have anything to tell them. That part became tiresome.”[11]

Finally, Boras called Mozeliak to share the good news. The two sides had an agreement on the most lucrative contract in Cardinals history,[12] surpassing the seven-year, $100-million extension Pujols signed in 2003. [13] Holliday would earn $17 million each season with an option for 2017 that automatically would vest if Holliday ranked in the top 10 in the 2016 NL MVP voting (he placed 11th).[14] The deal also reportedly included $2 million in deferred money each year. [15]

“It’s something we worked for, and I wanted to look around,” Holliday said. “At the end, you weigh your options and figure out what’s important to you. At the end of the day, playing in St. Louis with guys I made friends with and given the way the organization is run became very appealing to me.”[16]

“Each side definitely wanted to listen to the other and try to figure this out,” Boras said. “I think sometimes with ballplayers, teams choose them for their skill. In this situation, I think the Cardinals trust Matt Holliday. That’s the difference. And I think Matt trusts this organization.”[17]

In the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, columnist Bryan Burwell credited Mozeliak with doing whatever it took to add Holliday to the Cardinals’ lineup long-term.

“What we’ve just witnessed are the first critical steps in a big-picture plan that tells me Cardinals ownership is quite serious about ensuring that a powerful team will be assembled around Pujols that will entice him to be a Redbird for life, and that this franchise is sincere about trying to collect a bit more World Series hardware around here in the not-so-distant future,” Burwell wrote.[18]

Another Post-Dispatch columnist, Bernie Miklasz, also praised the move, noting that while a shorter deal would have been preferable, the contract was fair and the Cardinals’ needed Holliday’s bat in the lineup. [19]

For his part, Holliday indicated that the seven-year term was crucial.

“I’m kind of one of those people who likes to buy in,” he said. “I want to be part of the organization. I want to feel like I’m really part of it, and part of a family. When you have that kind of commitment you feel like you can really be a part of it. That was very important.”[20]

Holliday remained productive throughout the life of his contract, batting .293/.380/.494 with 156 homers and 616 RBIs during his Cardinals career. A four-time all-star in St. Louis, he was a member of the 2011 world championship team and helped the Cards reach the National League Championship Series in 2012, 2013, and 2014.

In 2017, he signed a free-agent deal with the Yankees, where he hit .231 with 19 homers and 64 RBIs. He returned to the Rockies in 2018, appearing in 25 games before retiring following his age-38 season. He finished his 15-year career with a .299 batting average, 316 homers, and 1,220 RBIs.


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[1] Derrick Goold, “Holliday will wear No. 7 for Cardinals,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 8, 2010.

[2] Joe Strauss, “La Russa says deal or no deal this week,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 5, 2010.

[3] Derrick Goold, “Holliday will wear No. 7 for Cardinals,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 8, 2010.

[4] Derrick Goold, “Holliday will wear No. 7 for Cardinals,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 8, 2010.

[5] Joe Strauss, “Holliday is happy with the outcome,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 7, 2010.

[6] Joe Strauss, “La Russa says deal or no deal this week,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 5, 2010.

[7] Joe Strauss, “La Russa says deal or no deal this week,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 5, 2010.

[8] Joe Strauss, “La Russa says deal or no deal this week,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 5, 2010.

[9] Joe Strauss, “La Russa says deal or no deal this week,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 5, 2010.

[10] Derrick Goold, “Holliday will wear No. 7 for Cardinals,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 8, 2010.

[11] Joe Strauss, “Holliday is happy with the outcome,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 7, 2010.

[12] Derrick Goold, “Holliday will wear No. 7 for Cardinals,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 8, 2010.

[13] Joe Strauss, “La Russa says deal or no deal this week,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 5, 2010.

[14] Joe Strauss, “Cardinals get their man,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 6, 2010.

[15] Bernie Miklasz, “Will Holliday hold his value?” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 7, 2010.

[16] Joe Strauss, “Cardinals get their man,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 6, 2010.

[17] Derrick Goold, “Holliday will wear No. 7 for Cardinals,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 8, 2010.

[18] Bryan Burwell, “Mozeliak should get the credit,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 6, 2010.

[19] Bernie Miklasz, “Will Holliday hold his value?” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 7, 2010.

[20] Derrick Goold, “Holliday will wear No. 7 for Cardinals,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 8, 2010.

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