Negotiations between the team and agent Scott Boras were lengthy, and at times difficult, but in the end, both sides got what they wanted. The Cardinals secured the services of a player they paid dearly to acquire, and Holliday got a long and lucrative contract.
"Sometimes when you take a big-picture look at things, it's overwhelming," Holliday told Doug Gottlieb on ESPN Radio. "Obviously my wife [Leslee] and I feel like we're very blessed. It is a tremendous amount of money. When you're a little kid growing up who hopes to be a professional baseball player and hopes to play in the Major Leagues, I don't think you ever think about the money. Now that you look at it and it's that kind of money, it's a little overwhelming."
Finalization of the deal is pending a physical exam. The Cardinals confirmed in a statement that an agreement is in place, however. The club said that a formal announcement regarding Holliday will come within the next 48 hours.
Boras confirmed that the guaranteed value of the seven-year contract is worth an even $17 million per year, including a full no-trade clause. The latter provision tends to be a major point of emphasis for Boras.
HOT STOVE'S BIG DEALS
The contract includes a $17 million vesting option for 2017, which will kick in if Holliday finishes in the top 10 in National League Most Valuable Player voting in 2016.
The Associated Press reported that the buyout on the vesting option is worth $1 million, making the total guaranteed value of the pact $120 million. If the option vests, Holliday will receive $136 million over the life of the pact. However, The AP also reported that the contract includes some deferred money, which would lower the present-day value of the contract to $16 million per year.
The deal gives Holliday the longest guarantee of any current Cardinal and the largest contract in club history, surpassing Albert Pujols' seven-year, $100 million contract.
Boras said that Holliday's choices with other clubs included shorter contracts with a higher average annual value.
"There were options," Boras said. "Matt gave me direction to pursue some options in advance of others. But certainly it was a process for him where he really had an opportunity to choose a direction that was most given to his and Leslee's needs."
Holliday spent the first five years of his Major League career with Colorado. After the Rockies determined they would be unable to sign him once he reached free agency, they traded him last winter to Oakland.
The A's then shipped Holliday to St. Louis in July for a package of prospects headed by burgeoning offensive talent Brett Wallace. He thrived upon arrival, hitting .353 with a .419 on-base percentage and .604 slugging percentage as a Cardinal.
However, Holliday struggled somewhat in the Cards' Division Series loss to Los Angeles, going 2-for-12 and famously dropping a ninth-inning fly ball in Game 2. Still, his overall experience with the Cardinals was a positive one, and he remembered that when it came to be decision time.
"The way Cardinal fans treated me the entire time I was there, from the first at-bat until the last at-bat, I definitely think that's something you consider, and something I did consider," Holliday told Gottlieb. "I was obviously very appreciative of the way I was treated there. Those things do weigh into your decision-making. I think every player wants to be appreciated for playing hard and playing well, and I think they definitely do that."
With Holliday back in the fold, the Cardinals have committed approximately $80.5 million in salaries for 2010. Salaries for arbitration-eligible and pre-arbitration players have yet to be determined, but will likely take the total up to around $93-94 million.
Assuming the Cardinals come in with a payroll of approximately $100 million, that means they still have some leeway to sign another player or two. The club has interest in a starting pitcher, a bat or two off the bench, and possibly a third baseman and a right-handed reliever.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.