Matt Holliday vs. Carl Crawford

By Jason Beinstein

There has of course been quite a bit of speculation as far as what the Yankees are going to do about their left field situation, given that many now expect Johnny Damon to sign elsewhere. I’m going to take a look at why I believe Matt Holliday is worth $18 million a season for five years versus the best possible alternative option that exists in 2011. First and foremost, Bill James’ prediction for Holliday has a split that looks like this: .316/.391/.531 and 27/105/109 with a projected worth of $26 million based on performance. Those numbers alone would make anybody salivate. Johnny Damon is trying to get $13 million a season, for an extra $5 million a season Holliday seems like an absolute steal.

A lot of Holliday’s value came from his production produced in one of the most offensive friendly ballparks over the past 10 years in Coors Field. In the 90-plus games that Holliday played in Oakland his line looked like this. .286/.378/.454. By all standards that’s a pretty good line. Add to the fact that he had absolutely no protection in the lineup and was playing in the extreme opposite of ballparks at Oakland Coliseum, I’d say he did quite well. In fact his OPS+ in Oakland was 127 and 117 on the road. As soon as he was traded to St. Louis his production skyrocketed with an OPS+ of 187 at home and 145 on the road hitting behind NL MVP Albert Pujols.

I too dream of a situation where Matt Holliday roams left field for the next five years providing protection for A-Rod and winning five more World Series titles. However, it doesn’t seem all too likely. Stranger things have happened though (see December 23, 2008). It just doesn’t seem like it’s in the cards since the Yankees are looking for another arm this offseason. Signing Holliday to an $18 million deal does seem steep if the team is going to sign another pitcher. A lot of people are calling for Ben Sheets to fill that spot at around $10 to $12 million.

If the Yankees are able to add Holliday for $16 $18 million a season for five years with two option years I’d gladly jump at the chance to place him in pinstripes and roll the dice on Joba and Phil in the 4 and 5 spots, for the chance of a lineup of Tex/A-Rod/Holliday for the next 5-plus years. If the Yankees aren’t able to sign Holliday this offseason it seems likely that they’ll be in the Carl Crawford sweepstakes for 2011.

Here is a short wish list of the 2011 free agents I’d love to see in pinstripes in an ideal Yankeeist world: 1) Joe Mauer. 2) Cliff Lee. 3) Carl Crawford.

Obviously we all know the premier free agent in the 2011 class is Joe Mauer. If the Yankees are willing to throw $20-plus million at him it may be hard for him to say no. That would put the kibosh on signing anybody else since they will have to offer Jeter a new contract and Mariano is also a question mark. Cliff Lee will be looking for a contract somewhere in the range of a three to four year deal at $17 million a year with Halladay recently getting his $20 million/year extension.

Crawford will make $10 million in his final season under contract for the Rays. I find it hard to believe that the Rays are going to retain Crawford with such a deep farm system and a small market budget. The Rays have the perfect fill-in for Crawford waiting in AAA in Desmond Jennings. I think they’d rather take the draft picks since they know they won’t be able to afford what Crawford is going to command on the open market.

Over the past five seasons FanGraphs values Crawford value at an average of $16.2 million a year. Over the life of his contract he has been paid $21.4 million and has been valued at $104.2 million. He’s been immensely valuable to the Rays in their turnaround during the past few years but I don’t think the Rays can afford to pay a speedy corner outfielder with mediocre power $15 million/year.

It wouldn’t be a wise baseball decision for Rays General Manager Andrew Friedman to offer Crawford a four-year deal at roughly $14 to $15 million per season. I really don’t think Crawford is going to take a hometown discount. He’s going to want to get paid and there will be plenty of suitors bidding for his services. It may behoove the Rays to trade Crawford before the trading deadline and get more than just a couple of draft picks.

Crawford is an above average leftfielder defensively and would fit perfectly in the leadoff position, sliding Jeter back to the #2 hole. We all know Jeter isn’t a stereotypical leadoff hitter although he performed admirably in 2009, posting a .390 wOBA en route to what many felt was one of the best years of his career. Jeter belongs in the two hole as long as he can keep those GIDPs low.

Crawford’s career splits look like this: .295/.335/.437 with an OPS+ of 103 and a wOBA of .343. His career SB Percentage is 82%, averaging 50 stolen bases a season over the past seven years. Crawford’s WAR was 5.1 in 2009 and he’s averaged a WAR of 4 over the past five years.

Now to address the defensive upgrade Crawford brings to the ball club. His UZR/150 ratings for the past five years are 17.5, 25.6,-1.4, 9.6, 14.2. I don’t know where this negative number came in but we’ll consider it an outlier and just a bad season. Crawford will be 29 as he enters free agency and should still maintain the speed that has made him so dangerous for the life of a four-year contract. I know the Yankees are a team that plays station-to-station baseball and rely heavily on the long ball to drive in runs. Adding Crawford to the lineup would upgrade the defense and provide a stolen base threat at the top of the lineup that we haven’t seen since Rickey Henderson was rocking the pinstripes.

One major drawback to Crawford is his reliance on speed, and as each year comes and goes he’s not going to get faster. His career infield hit percentage is somewhere around 9% and his career OPS+ away from the Trop is 92. With a career groundball-to-flyball ratio of 1.66 it seems as though his best fit would be in a turf stadium, although he would still make an impact on natural grass. His ability to draw walks and get on base is average at best, and he relies heavily on those wheels to beat out ground balls and steal bases. With all that being said I still think he’s worth signing if the Yankees cannot sign Holliday.

Below you’ll find my projected 2011 Lineup A vs. Lineup B with the career wRC+ which is an adjusted version of wRC. Check out Larry’s lineup projections here.

Career wRC+
height="17">LF Carl Crawford 111
SS Derek Jeter 131
1B Mark Teixeira 138
3B Alex Rodriguez 153
C Jorge Posada 128
CF Curtis Granderson 119
DH Nick Johnson 130
RF Nick Swisher 117
2B Robinson Cano 113
Career wRC+
SS Derek Jeter 131
DH Nick Johnson 130
1B Mark Teixeira 138
3B Alex Rodriguez 153
LF Matt Holliday 139
C Jorge Posada 128
CF Curtis Granderson 119
RF Nick Swisher 117
2B Robinson Cano 113

I’ll take Lineup B any day of the week. Granted, it’s not a very young team with only one player under the age of 30 in 2011 (Cano will be 29 in Oct 2011). Not to mention we haven’t gotten to the next coming of the messiah behind the plate in Jesus Montero.

Holliday is definitely worth the extra $3million/year over the life of his contract versus Crawford. He plays solid defense and is a major plus on offense. Since 2005, Crawford’s production was worth $82.5 million vs. Holliday at $114.3 million. That’s an average of $6 million more production a season. Since 2005 Holliday was paid $27.9 million and Crawford was paid $18.8 million, both had WAR’s close to 5.5 in 2009.

Holliday seems to be the perfect fit for the Yankees with salary issues in 2010 onward aside. I mean it’s only money, right? I can only imagine the moaning and groaning that would envelop Yankees fans, non-Yankee fans and the front office alike if the team signed Holliday. All the more reason to sign him, in my opinion.

This is the first post from new Yankeeist contributor Jason Beinstein.

6 thoughts on “Matt Holliday vs. Carl Crawford

  1. Why use a 2011 lineup? There is going to be regression from Jeter & Posoda. Probably ARod also. Holliday already showed he can't "produce" in the AL. He was a little unlucky with the A's but that is still very troubling. I also don't expect Johnson back in 2011. The Yankees should sign Mauer and have him share the duties with Posada in his last year. The off day is the DH. Keeps everyone fresh and gives Mauer almost a free half season. It's only money? Yes but do you want to see the Yankees stuck with Pavano, Wright, Farnsworth deals as players age. I'll take Melky for a year, 8 of 9 positions projected to be above average is not that bad (sarcasm) and they are still the best team in the AL with that line-up. Can you be the best and still try to best yourself? (is that even English?) The 2010 Yankees are still going to be the World Series favorites. Improve the bench, get some more fungible bullpen arms, improve the rotation depth and let the season start.

  2. Craig K

    JB, great first post here. I'm somewhat partial to Matt Holliday as I like his style of play (Gamer). He has also proven that he can mash. Put him in that line up and we got ourselves a stew!I do think that their is a possibility that the Yankees are merely posturing about lowering the budget and would drop any sum to make a splash…or not, we'll find out soon enough. You pointed out the Tex signing in this case, well played.Frankly, I think Sheets is a gamble for any team willing to give him a shot. He could be great or he could be a complete bust. I'm not buying his salary demands however, being out of the game for an entire year.Lastly, after all is said and done. I wouldn't be surprised at all if you see Damon back to start in Left.With the position we're in now (Melky starting in LF) and the acquisition of a Dusch/Sheets type pitcher in the rotation…I think we're going to be in pretty good shape.

  3. Michael,I chose the 2011 lineup because that's when Crawford is a free agent and I can't really foresee a change in the lineup barring injury or a trade.Secondly they are not projections they are career wRC+.I don't think Holliday had trouble producing, he quite frankly didn't have the supporting cast in Oakland. Oakland's team OBP in 2009 was .328 and their slugging, total bases and every other offensive statistic was in the bottom third of the league. How can ya "produce" without the opportunities ahead of you and the protection behind.Johnson could very well be back with the Yanks depending on production but I agree that he won't stick around if we sign Mauer.I don't think a 5 year deal to a positional player at the age of 30 is a bad deal. Giving lengthy expensive contracts to pitchers are generally a bad idea. In fact the only one to work out for the Yankees has been Mike Mussina. I'd like to think the CC signing will work out too but im not holding my breath.I'm okay with the Yankees keeping things as is and signing another SP and adding depth to the bullpen and bench. I agree that we'll still be the favorites for the WS if the season started today.

  4. The only problem with your analysis is that Jeter has always been one of the league leaders in GIDP. The Yankees either have to keep him first, or lower in the line up (5th/6th?). Two speedy players, Jeter/Crawford as a one, and two makes more sense. There would always be someone on base for Teixeira, or A-Rod.

  5. David

    The Yanks would have been stronger if they had acquired Holliday rather than Granderson. They could have used Melky/Garder in CF, rather than use them in LF with Granderson in CF. I guess they either expect a huge jump in Granderson's performance or they're trying to save money. I think it's the latter. The Yanks really seem serious about reducing their payroll.

  6. Swingle

    Good first post. Holliday's numbers aren't dreadful during his half-season in Oakland; they look grim only because he was hitting at an absurd .353/.419/.604 clip in St. Louis, all career highs if projected for a full season.The focus should be on solidifying the 'pen and maybe an arm. With all due respect to the declines of Jeter and Posada, we're still the World Series champions and trot out above-average players in nearly every position and lineup spot. Must we overhaul? I get that Damon isn't likely to duplicate his success in 2010, but I don't buy Boston or anyone else making a tremendous upgrade, so it's not as though we're exactly struggling to find ways to win…if we're going to be serious about the Joe Mauer MegaMillions spectacular next year, how about legitimately sticking to our guns and defending the title with most of the guys who earned it in 2009?/sips victory champagne

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