The first big move of the trade deadline took place today, with the Oakland Athletics sending power hitter Matt Holliday and cash to the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for top prospect Brett Wallace and fellow prospects Clayton Mortensen and Shane Peterson. A few eyebrows have been raised by the deal, since the Cards have given up three young players and taken on three-quarters of Holliday’s remaining salary in exchange for a two-month rental.
Already, some are wondering whether this deal signals a crazy market ahead in which the Mariners could score some big-time prospects for Jarrod Washburn or Erik Bedard.
I’ll suggest that today’s deal does not necessarily mean that at all.
Photo Credit/Brad Mangin SI
The reason why is that Holliday is on-pace to become a Type A free agent this winter. Both Washburn and Bedard are almost certainly going to wind up Type B free agents. Bedard had an excellent shot at Type A status back in May, but then he missed a month and has been a five-inning pitcher since coming off the DL. Both of those factors should conspire to keep him a Type B pitcher and that makes all the difference.
As a Type A free-agent, Holliday will command two compensatory picks if the Cards offer him arbitration this winter and he declines and signs with another team. In other words, the Cards did not just trade for two months of Holliday. They traded for two months of Holliday plus two higher-end draft picks — a first-rounder and a supplemental rounder (between rounds 1 and 2 of the draft).
That means, the asking price for Holliday was always going to be at least two very good prospects. The bare minimum, unless the A’s are in the habit of being fleeced, which they aren’t. It was the same last year with Raul Ibanez. The Mariners knew they had the two Type A compensatory picks in their pocket and that type of return was the bare minimum they were seeking for Ibanez. When other teams, first the Blue Jays in July, then the Tigers in August, came knocking, the Mariners turned down offers of players they did not feel were worth two high level picks.
That’s how these things work.
In the case of the Holliday deal, secondary prospect Mortensen and throw-in Peterson probably were not going to get the job done on their own in completing a deal.
Wallace is a top prospect, but he alone also was unlikely to get the deal done. After all, Holliday is still a premium player. You have to give up something to get something. And the A’s could have received two early round picks by holding on to Holliday.
Should Wallace and Mortensen together have been enough? You can argue that. But there was competition for Holliday and that usually means an overpay at this time of year. Still, given the compensatory picks at stake, this is hardly the biggest overpay in the world. The Cards just landed a middle of the order hitter that could be their ticket to the playoffs.
Those two compensatory picks they’ll get could easily be greater in value than Mortensen and Peterson. Maybe not better than Wallace, but it’s not like they just gave him away for free. A post-season berth can help teams get over the loss of a single prospect, even a very good one.
It’s the chance you take.
This does not signal, though. a free-for-all where the haul for Bedard or Washburn is concerned.
Neither pitcher is considered a front-line starter and the most either will generate if they leave as free agents is a single, compensatory pick in the supplemental round. Not the same as landing a first rounder. In other words, getting an “A” level prospect in return for one or the other is still not going to be a slam dunk.
And the Holliday deal really shouldn’t impact that one way or the other.