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Cardinals Bolster Lineup With Holliday

Matt HollidayBarring a Roy Halladay trade, the biggest deal of the deadline went down this morning. Matt Holliday is now a St. Louis Cardinal. The Cardinals are sending Brett Wallace, Clayton Mortensen, and Shane Peterson to the A's for the slugging outfielder.

Holliday's value sunk after a sluggish start in Oakland. Power especially was lacking. However, there have been serious signs of life in July, and even his current production rate will help the Cardinals lineup. On top of that, Holliday's batting average on balls in play so far this year is about 50 points worse than his career mark, and his strikeout rate has not gone up. Perhaps Matt is not hitting the ball as hard, but on paper that looks like some bad luck.Between regression to the mean and returning to the NL, Holliday could explode in St. Louis.

As for who the A's acquired, Brett Wallace is the centerpiece. Faithful readers of mine likely remember him from last year's watchlist. I love his bat, as does pretty much everyone now. That's why the A's got him, and they may bring him up immediately to play third base. I do not think he is quite ready, but I thought the same about fellow 2008 watchlist member Gordon Beckham, and he is doing just fine for the White Sox right now.

Shane Peterson is an outfielder also from last year's draft class. In his first full pro season, Shane is already in AA and hitting modestly well. He makes consistent content, but does not have a ton of power. Speed is a tremendous asset for him though, and he is a smart baserunner too. Though I haven't seen him play, I have a hunch he plays awfully good defense with his skillset.

Clayton Mortensen was the Cardinals first round draft pick in 2007. He has a local connection as a former Gonzaga bulldog. Mortensen is a right-handed pitcher already in AAA. He gets a few more ground balls than an average pitcher, but everything else about him is pretty much just there. At 24 years old, Clayton will still develop some, but he doesn't look like much more than a decent starter to me.

Oakland originally traded Carlos Gonzalez, Greg Smith, and Huston Street for Holliday. Wallace essentially takes the place of Gonzalez, but I think most would consider Carlos a better prospect. He is younger and has hit better than Wallace in AAA. Mortensen is a young starting pitcher like Greg Smith, but Smith is definitely superior. Lastly, Huston Street and Shane Peterson are the hardest two to compare. If Peterson develops into a major league contributor for five or six years, with two or three of those as a starting-caliber player, he will be an upgrade over what the A's would have got from Huston this point going forward. Though Matt Holliday's value probably has sunk, the A's did not sell him at half price. They got a decent haul for him.

St. Louis needs to find a way to re-sign Matt Holliday to make this deal worthwhile for them. In the immediate future, this bolsters their playoff chances a ton. Pujols and Holliday are a scary good combo, especially in a division with several decent teams, but no great ones. The Cubs could still make a charge with Aramis Ramirez's turn and a bit more productive Alfonso Soriano, but St. Louis has to be the favorites now.

This feels a little bit to me like the Scott Rolen trade back in 2003. After Rolen turned down a huge contract extension in Philadelphia, it seemed likely he would get traded before the deadline. Holliday was in a similar position, where people expected him to get dealt before the deadline from the start of the season. Rolen ultimately signed an extension in St. Louis that was considerably smaller than the one he turned down in Philadelphia, and was a fixture in the heart of the Cardinals order for several years.

Holliday is a few years older than Rolen was in 2003, and the talent St. Louis gave up to get him may prove to be better than what they gave the Phillies back then. I have a hunch Matt Holliday will love playing in St. Louis, so perhaps he will stay for a bit of a discounted price. He will have to with Pujols around, gobbling up a significant portion of the payroll (and deservedly so).

I've been impressed with Cardinals GM John Mozeliak ever since he took over a few years ago. His drafts produced all the players St. Louis gave up in the Holliday deal. Now we know he has some serious guts. His legacy now rides on this deal. I'm even more impressed with him now.

Albert Pujols has been clamoring for more help and an indication that the team is really serious about winning. He shouldn't have any doubts now.