Rockies Looking to Celebrate Another Holliday

With a bench heavy on left-handed hitters, the Rockies are looking to the past to see if they can find an answer to the need for a right-handed bat. Matt Holiday, an original Rockie forever remembered for his head-first slide to scoring the winning run in Game 163 of the 2007 season, has agreed to a minor-league deal with the Rockies, according to sources close to situation.

Holiday has to pass a physical, and then join the Rockies rookie-level affiliate at Grand Junction. He is expected to be in the lineup in Grand Junction on Wednesday or Thursday.

At the age of 38, Holliday was among the free agents in the off-season who did not find a market. He did some work this season with Sirius XM, and continued to work out, telling friends that he still had a desire to play.

Now he is in a position where he could get a chance to end his career with the organization where it began. Holiday was highly-regarded when he came out of Stillwater (Okla.) High School, but also was one of the top three-ranked high school quarterbacks in the country, and committed to play at Oklahoma State, where his father was the head baseball coach.

The Rockies were able to select him in the seventh round of the draft in 1998, and while then- general manager Bob Gebhard was reluctant to get involved in high-priced negotiations for a player taken that far down in the draft, the late Jerry McMorris, managing general partner of the Rockies at the time, personally took on the challenge. Holliday eventually signed a deal worth $865,000, which at the time was a record for a seventh-round pick.

Holliday was primarily a DH for the Yankees last year, although he did play seven games at first base. The Rockies could see him a right-handed bat who could step in at first base when the team is facing a left-handed pitcher, and Ian Desmond, the Rockies regular first baseman, could move to left field.

The Rockies are left-handed hitting heavy in the outfield. The three primary outfielders -- Carlos Gonzalez, Charlie Blackmon and Gerardo Parra are all left-handed hitters. While the Rockies do have right-handed-hitting Noel Cuevas as a fourth outfielder, their prime hitting prospects at Triple-A Albuquerque also are left-handed hitters -- first baseman Ryan McMahon, and outfielders Raimel Tapia, David Dahl, Jordan Patterson, and Mike Tauchman.

Holliday could become a right-handed version of Jason Giambi, who at the end of his career joined the Rockies to provide a veteran clubhouse presence and offensive threat off the bench. But first he will have to get some playing time in at the minor-league level, and convince himself and the Rockies he has fully recovered from a year ago when the Yankees medical staff mis-diagnosed a virus, which led to him getting sick and losing strength.

He has been working out at Oklahoma State this summer so the decision on whether to bring Holliday to the big-league roster could come quickly, once he gets into some games at various minor-league levels.

It's not unike a year ago when the Rockies took a look at Ryan Howard, after he was released from the Braves Triple-A affiliate at Gwinnett, but at the time of September callups the Rockies passed on adding Howard to their big-league roster.

Rockies fans will never forget that game-ending slide in the 13th-inning of that Game 163, 9-8 victory against the Padres in 2007, which earned the Rockies the NL wild-card berth in the post-season. Rockies manager Bud Black was the Padres manager at the time, and is still convinced that Holliday never touched home plate, although it can be pointed out that Padres catcher Michael Barrett never tagged Holliday.

The Rockies went on to sweep the Phillies in the NL Division Series, and Diamondbacks in the NLCS, in which Holliday was the MVP, but were swept by the Red Sox in what is their only World Series appearance.

A touch of irony for Holliday would be to become a teammate of Carlos Gonzalez, who was the prospect the Rockies acquired along with reliever Huston Street and left-handed pitcher Greg Smith from the A's in the trade of Holliday after the 2008 season. Holliday was a potential free agent the next fall and the Rockies were dobutful they could work a deal with agent Scott Boras.

Honors Seasons (finish in voting)
Rookie of the Year 2004 -- (5th)
All-Star 2006-07-08-10-11-12-15
MVP 2006 (15th), 2007 (2nd), 2008 (18th)
2009 (16th), 2010 (12th), 2012 (11th)
2013 (23rd) 2014 (14th)
Siliver Slugger 2006-07-08-11

Gonzalez assumed Holliday's No. 5 with the Rockies, explaining that Holliday was a player he greatly admired, and is still wearing No. 5 for the Rockies today. It will be interesting if Holliday is activated on the big-league number whether Gonzalez, a free agent in the fall, or Holliday would wear No. 5.

Holliday had his best years with the Rockies, topped off by 2007 when he hit a career-high 36 home runs, and led the NL with a .340 batting average, 216 hits, 50 doubles, 137 RBI and 386 total bases. He also won a Siliver Slugger, was an All-Star selection and finished second in NL MVP voting.

The Holliday Files

Team (Seasons) G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA SLG OPS
Rockies (2004-08) 698 2968 2656 479 848 188 23 128 483 66 17 251 505 .319 .552 .938
A's (2009) 93 400 346 52 99 23 1 11 54 12 3 46 58 .286 .454 .831
Cardinals (2009-2016) 982 4121 3581 573 1048 237 8 156 616 29 17 447 667 .293 .494 .874
Yankees (2017) 105 427 373 50 86 18 0 19 64 1 0 46 114 .231 .432 .748
Totals 1878 7916 6956 1154 2081 466 32 314 1217 108 37 790 1344 .299 .511 .889
Tracy RingolsbyComment