Buffa: Is this the end of the Matt Holliday era in St. Louis?

St. Louis Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday is back on the field, but will he be back next year? It's not so cut and dry.

The veteran has an option for 17 million hanging over his 2017 season that isn't set in stone for the Cardinals to pick up. The team will have to make a decision on Holliday before they pursue any free agent looks or look to extend other Cardinals such as Brandon Moss. It can't be avoided as the 36 year old makes one final try at a comeback this year. 

Holliday missed nearly half of the 2015 season with a quadriceps injury that took a huge chunk of his reliability away in the playoffs. This year, Holliday was struck on the hand by a pitch in Wrigley on August 12th and was expected to miss the rest of the season. He is increasing baseball activities as September pulls into its midway stretch. 

Here's the problem with a Holliday return. Fans are going to expect the guy to click right back into place and it just won't happen. Holliday hasn't faced hitters in a month and there is no minor league action to be a part of as their playoff runs wrap up. Couple that with the fact that Holliday was struggling before the injury and it's risky business. 

So, it's going to be a decision based on what Mozeliak can expect Holliday to do in 2017 if he is brought back. Where is Holliday playing? If Harrison Bader is cutting through the minors and positioned for a corner outfield spot, is he going to need time in 2017? How about Moss? If he returns, left field will be a spot. If the Cards acquire a centerfielder and Randal Grichuk needs to move, how much does Holliday play? If Matt Carpenter continues to play first base, how much can Holliday play there? Not cut and dry, folks.

In Holliday's last full season, he played 156 games, hit 20 home runs, and compiled an .811 OPS. A WAR of 3.3. That was two years ago and Holliday's body is running up against father time. He's turning 37 in January and expecting him to revert back to something 2-3 years ago may be a stretch. 

Professional writer position aside, I'd like Holliday to come back. If Moss asks for crazy money and signs elsewhere, the Birds get a pick through that and can bring back Holliday for a final season to create a bridge for Bader and/or wait for a better free agent crop next year. There's a fair reason to give Holliday one more run in St. Louis before his DH days take over. 

I'm not sure it's going to happen. I don't expect the Cards or Holliday to slice up a larger extension that keeps him here through 2018 or further. Age is a factor and reliability. Pride also comes into play. Will Holliday accept a position in 2017 that doesn't place him as an every day player or so high in the order? 

The impact of Holliday's probable departure isn't solely on the field of play. He's a huge presence in the community and also is a genuine leader in the clubhouse. You don't replace that in one winter. However, the chains are moved by what a player does on the field. 

What can one expect from Holliday in 2017? The career on base machine that strokes 30-35 doubles and hits 20 home runs. Or the guy who hit for more power yet couldn't muster a .240 batting average into the second half of the season? 

If Holliday does come back this month, do me a favor and don't expect much at first. He'll be behind pitches and could produce a few thrills while letting half of St. Louis down in the process. He's an aging slugger losing a grip on a spot he's strangled over the past seven seasons. 

If he does return, get a good look at one of the best Cardinals to come around in the past 30 years. One of the best contracts in baseball. A man fans will never learn to appreciate enough while he's here or after he is gone. Holliday was great, then good, and now exists as a question mark. 

Get a good look, folks. As easy as it would be for the Cards to pick up the 2017 option, I don't think it's a certainty any longer. This may be the end of the Matt Holliday era in St. Louis. 


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