For the first time since 2009, the St. Louis Cardinals will feature a player other than Matt Holliday in left field. Following the season’s conclusion, the Cardinals chose not to exercise their $17 million contract option for the 2017 services of the soon-to-be 37-year-old.
That ended a long and productive relationship between player and team. Acquired from Oakland in July 2009, Holliday slid into the middle of the Cardinals lineup behind Albert Pujols, creating a formidable duo until the latter departed following the 2011 season.
Holliday, a career .303 hitter during the regular season, has appeared in 72 career postseason games, including 61 with St. Louis. Only in his first full season as a Cardinal (2010) and his last (2016), did the club miss the playoffs. Twice his Cardinals advanced to the World Series, winning in 2011. His 13 career post-season home runs are tied for the 14th-most all time in MLB.
Over his tenure with St. Louis, Holliday placed on several team all-time lists, including a tie for 27th with 1,048 hits, 11th in home runs with 156 and 10th in slugging at .494.
The club activated the 36-year-old for the final weekend series at Busch Stadium and he shined in the spotlight in each of the final three games.
That Friday, Holliday launched a pinch-hit home run. The next night, his pinch-hit single helped St. Louis win a one-run game. Finally, for Sunday’s ninth inning, he was sent out onto the turf alone to take a final bow from left field as the fans cheered and his teammates joined in from outside the dugout.
— Chris Hrabe (@chrabe) October 2, 2016
Sadly, the time on the disabled list just kept Holliday from reaching two major career milestones in 2016. He departed St. Louis five hits short of 2,000 and five home runs shy of 300.
The Oklahoma native is a seven-time National League All-Star (2006-08, 2010-12, 2015) and four-time Silver Slugger Award winner (2006-08, 2010).
Once a third baseman before being moved to the outfield, Holliday came up through the Colorado Rockies system after being drafted in the seventh round in 1998. He reached the majors in early 2004 and spent five years with Colorado, including his first World Series appearance, in 2007. That same season, he won his only National League batting title and finished second in the NL Most Valuable Player voting, his only career top-10 showing.
The long-time Scott Boras client was traded to Oakland for his final year prior to free agency, an unhappy marriage between player and team that ended after just a half-season when the A’s flipped Holliday to the Cardinals in July 2009. That winter, after testing free agency, Holliday returned to St. Louis on a contract that netted him $120 million over the next seven years.
With his time with St. Louis up, this December 7, Holliday signed a one-year deal with the New York Yankees. His old defensive position with the Cardinals will be filled by Randal Grichuk, who will be moving over from center field. On December 12th, St. Louis signed free agent Dexter Fowler to be their center fielder for the next four seasons.
Holliday may be gone, but he will not soon be forgotten by Cardinals fans.
Follow me on Twitter.