- Jerry Crasnick, ESPN.com MLB Sr. Writer
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CHICAGO -- Scott Boras declined to toss out a specific dollar figure in his public sales pitch for outfielder Matt Holliday on Tuesday. But he spent enough time comparing Holliday to his last big position player free agent -- Mark Teixeira -- to create a distinct impression what kind of money he has in mind.
Boras called Holliday one of "less than 30 franchise players'' in the major leagues, and indicated that he considers Holliday on a similar plane with Teixeira, who signed an eight-year, $180 million contract with the New York Yankees last winter.
"I'm not here to put ceilings on players,'' Boras said. "But certainly, I think the comparison of the type of players they are and the impact they could bring ... it's there for the two of them.''
Holliday, 29, and Boston outfielder Jason Bay are considered the marquee position players on this winter's free-agent market. Holliday made three All-Star teams and was the 2007 National League MVP runner-up in Colorado. He recovered from a disappointing three-month stint in Oakland this season to hit .353 with a 1.023 OPS for St. Louis after joining the Cardinals in a July deadline deal.
It's believed that only a handful of clubs have the financial wherewithal to make a serious run at Holliday. The Cardinals have expressed an interest in re-signing him, and Boras met with general manager John Mozeliak and other club officials Tuesday at the GMs' meetings in Chicago. The Mets, Angels and Giants are among the other teams that have been mentioned in speculation as potential Holliday suitors.
As for the world champion Yankees, they've been focusing their early attention on free agents Andy Pettitte, Hideki Matsui and Boras client Johnny Damon. GM Brian Cashman also has to be prepared for next winter, when Derek Jeter's 10-year, $189 million contract expires.
Boras spent much of a 30-minute lobby session with reporters Tuesday disputing the notion that teams won't spend money on free agents this winter because of a slow economy. He also spent considerable time extolling the virtues of Holliday.
"To be a franchise player, you have to perform at a level where you're in that MVP discussion many times in your career,'' Boras said. "You have to be viewed as a complete player, where you can score 100 runs and drive in 100 in the middle of the lineup. When Matt was in Colorado, he took a very young team and put them on his back and led them to the World Series. By any definition, Matt fits all the criteria.''
One of the most entertaining aspects to the Bay-Holliday sweepstakes could be listening to their respective agents try to outdo each other. In a recent interview with WEEI.com in Boston, Bay's agent, Joe Urbon, categorized him as a more well-rounded player than Holliday.
"I think the most important thing about Jason Bay is that he is truly the most complete player in this free-agent class. I don't think, I know," Urbon told the Web site.
In an ESPN.com general managers' meeting poll this week, 11 of 20 GMs, scouts and other baseball officials preferred Holliday to Bay head-to-head. Holliday won points among survey respondents for being two years younger, more athletic, and a better baserunner and defensive player. Bay's supporters cited his ability to put up numbers in a demanding market in Boston.
Boras, understandably, took issue with Urbon's characterization of Bay as the better all-around player.
"I represent Matt Holliday and I'll serve as an advocate,'' Boras said. "I don't know what criteria [Urbon] is looking at. All I can tell you is that I've been around baseball for a long time, and the reality is that Matt Holliday is a complete player."
Jerry Crasnick covers baseball for ESPN.com.
5hInterview by Buster Olney