Holliday re-signing with Cardinals

Updated: January 6, 2010, 8:19 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Matt Holliday has agreed to the richest contract in the illustrious history of the St. Louis Cardinals.

On Tuesday, the free-agent slugger announced on The Doug Gottlieb Show on ESPN Radio that he is re-signing with the team for seven years. The deal is worth $120 million -- Holliday will make $15 million a season, plus another $2 million a year in deferred payments -- with a vesting option for 2017. If the option doesn't vest, then the Cardinals can either pick up the option at $17 million or take the buyout for $1 million.

The contract is contingent on Holliday passing a physical.

"Well, I think first of all going into free agency I had in the back of my mind that I really liked my time in St. Louis and felt it was a good fit for me and my family," Holliday said on the show.

"At the end of the day we decided that was best for us."

General manager John Mozeliak said in a text message to The Associated Press that he planned to address the media Thursday once Holliday undergoes his physical.

St. Louis acquired Holliday from Oakland in July and he helped lead the Cardinals to their first NL Central title since 2006. They sent several top prospects to the Athletics and justified that expense by retaining a player who hit .353 with 13 homers and 55 RBIs in 63 games for St. Louis.

A three-time All-Star, Holliday was a perfect fit batting cleanup behind star slugger Albert Pujols, though he was the goat in a first-round playoff sweep by the Los Angeles Dodgers after dropping a sinking liner to left field that would have been the final out of Game 2.

Holliday, who turns 30 on Jan. 15, batted .313 overall with 24 homers and 109 RBIs, his fifth .300 season and third 100-RBI year.

"Obviously, with Albert Pujols on the team you have a great opportunity to have a great team," Holliday said on the show. "Albert is the best player in the history of baseball in my mind. Hopefully between the two of us we can help do our part to win a World Series."

Cardinals pitcher Kyle Lohse said he got the news in text messages between the teammates' wives.

"That's pretty good, pretty exciting," Lohse told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. "I've been around long enough not to pay too much attention until something gets done, but I know he liked it here and I'm sure he's really happy things worked out."

Holliday's agreement is much bigger than the other two big free-agent deals of the offseason: pitcher John Lackey's $82.5 million, five-year contract with Boston and outfielder Jason Bay's $66 million, four-year contract with the New York Mets, which was finalized earlier Tuesday.

"When you're a little kid growing up hoping to be a professional baseball player and hoping to play in the major leagues, I don't think you ever think about the money," Holliday said. "Now that you look at it, it's a little overwhelming."

Holliday's contract contains deferred money that lowers its annual present-day value to about $16 million, according to The Associated Press. He receives a full no-trade provision, a hotel suite on the road and the same award bonus opportunities that Pujols has: $50,000 for election to the NL All-Star team, $25,000 for All-Star selection, $50,000 for division series MVP (an award that doesn't yet exist), $100,000 for league championship series MVP, $150,000 for World Series MVP, $200,000 for NL MVP and $50,000 each for Gold Glove and Silver Slugger.

The deal also likely sets a floor for negotiations between the Cardinals and Pujols, who is entering the final guaranteed season of a $100 million, seven-year contract. St. Louis holds a $16 million option for 2011 on the three-time NL MVP.

St. Louis becomes only the third team with a pair of $100 million players, joining the New York Yankees (Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira and CC Sabathia) and the New York Mets (Johan Santana and Carlos Beltran).

The Cardinals have long considered themselves a midmarket franchise and had a payroll under $100 million last season, but this deal might be a signal the franchise is willing to spend more. The Cardinals have three players making over $10 million per season, including NL Cy Young Award runner-up Chris Carpenter ($13 million).

Holliday said he was happy to have things settled after negotiations that have been ongoing for months.

"This has been a bit of a long process and there were some emotional ups and downs that go with it," he said. "It hasn't exactly been a walk in the park. It's relief."

Holliday and Lohse have the same agent, Scott Boras. Lohse said he never tried to get the inside story on negotiations.

"I've had several people ask me what was going on," Lohse said. "It's not that I don't care, but it's a business decision."

Information from The Associated Press and ESPN The Magazine senior writer Buster Olney was used in this report.

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