In need of a designated hitter, the New York Yankees have agreed to a one-year, $13 million deal with Matt Holliday. The Yankees had been linked to Carlos Beltran, who they traded to the Texas Rangers this past summer, but watched him ink a $16 million pact with the Houston Astros a few days ago.
Whether or not the Yankees simply declined to offer the few extra million that it would have taken to sign Beltran -- reports have varied -- Holliday isn’t a terrible fallback option.
This year’s free agent market is tepid, leaving the Yankees with few viable options at designated hitter. The primary short-term options were Beltran, Holliday and Mike Napoli, who could very well find himself a multi-year deal (at a higher number) given his age (35) and recent production.
Brian Cashman could have reached higher and hamstrung the Yankees by shelling out nine figures for Jose Bautista or Edwin Encarnacion, but such a move would have been foolish. New York’s revised focus on younger, building block players puts them a few years away from legitimate contention. By the time Aaron Judge and Co. are ready for meaningful October baseball, a free agent signee like Bautista or Encarnacion would be in Teixeira/Rodriguez territory.
A career .303/.382/.515 hitter, Holliday will turn 37 next month and has amassed a total of 703 plate appearances over the last two seasons. Limited by injury, he hit .259/.350/.442 over that stretch. Despite a dip in contact and power, he reached base at a more than respectable rate. As a team, the Yankees ranked 12th in the American League in on-base percentage (.315) and slugging (.405). Even a gimpy Holliday would provide above average production for Joe Girardi in those categories.
It wasn’t long ago that being a designated hitter meant clubbing 40 home runs and driving in well over 100 runs. In the post-PED era, expectations are much lower. Using Beltran, Alex Rodriguez and even Billy Butler at the position in 2016, the Yankees had a total slash line of .261/.312/.450 from their professional hitters. Thanks to the phenomenon known as Gary Sanchez, Girardi actually received a higher OPS at catcher (.791) than DH.
Grade for Yankees: B
Holliday, while not the hitter he was in the late-00s, is more than capable of producing on a Yankees team that needs leadership and quite frankly, capable Major Leaguers to eat up at-bats while the kids continue to mature. If he hits like Beltran did, Cashman can even harvest some extra fruit from this deal by moving him for a prospect or two next summer.