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Holliday shopping done early

By Nick Cafardo
Globe Staff / November 11, 2009

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CHICAGO - Multiple reports have it that the Red Sox made a four-year, $60 million offer to left fielder Jason Bay, though general manager Theo Epstein has not confirmed that. But if the Sox don’t retain Bay, the main power-hitting outfielder available is Matt Holliday, who is represented by Scott Boras.

Holliday is basically Boras’s 2010 version of Mark Teixeira. While Boras hasn’t put a monetary figure on Holliday’s worth, you can assume that Boras will ask for (and may not get) at least Teixeira money (eight years, $180 million).

Boras met with Epstein last night at the general managers’ meetings, and it is likely that Holliday’s name came up. Epstein has said that while he wants to pursue a deal with Bay, he won’t limit himself exclusively to negotiating with Bay in case it doesn’t work out. So Boras came calling for the usual introductory meeting about a major player.

Question is, what will the relationship be between Boras and the Red Sox after last season’s failed attempt to land Teixeira? Those talks seemed to turn sour when Sox owner John Henry indicated after a meeting with Teixeira in Dallas that Boras’s demands were too rich. President/CEO Larry Lucchino also might have said some things to disturb Teixeira.

“I would say that the Boston Red Sox had a chance to sign Mark Teixeira before the New York Yankees did because we gave them an offer,’’ Boras said. “That’s the best I can do for owners when you give them a chance to sign a player. The player was earnest in coming there at the time and he presented them with [a proposal] and they could have accepted it.’’

And we know the rest of the story. Teixeira signed with the Yankees and went on to have a great year as New York won the World Series.

But business is business. And bad feelings don’t last long. The Sox have negotiated many other contracts with Boras with no problems to speak of, so a new day, a new player, a new offseason, should wipe the slate clean. The Sox may have a huge need for Holliday if Bay signs elsewhere, so they have to be all ears.

When Boras was told that Bay’s agent, Joe Urbon, said Bay was the most complete player in free agency, Boras said, “I don’t know what criteria he’s looking at, and that’s fine. All I can tell you is I’ve been around baseball a long time and the reality is that Matt Holliday is a complete player.’’

But what about Holliday’s slow start with the A’s this season before being traded to the Cardinals, which has led some to speculate that the 29-year-old is best suited for the National League?

Holliday hit .286 with 11 homers and 54 RBIs in 93 games with Oakland, then hit .353 with 13 homers and 55 RBIs in 63 games with St. Louis.

“I look at the totality of the circumstances,’’ Boras said. “Matt in American League ballparks in interleague play did very well. When you’re talking about Oakland, [Johnny] Damon didn’t play well in Oakland for a period of time but it doesn’t mean he couldn’t play well in the AL for a long time.

“It was a moment in time when Matt was there where he was having problems with his hitting mechanics and he made some adjustments. And frankly, after the first five weeks of the season he went back to his normal stance and he hit well over .300 and his slugging and OPS was at the same level it was in the NL.’’

Boras said there are no more than 30 franchise players in baseball and that Holliday, who has a .346 career average at Fenway Park in 26 at-bats, is one of them.

“The truth of it is you can really do a lot of good things in the draft and really build your franchises,’’ said Boras. “But in the end, when you come to the final moment of winning a world championship, if you don’t have the franchise players, you can’t win, because those players, even when they don’t play well in the postseason, they put other players in a position to play well. In my mind, they make franchises continually ready to win and be true champions.

“They’re hard to come by. Whenever fans and people look at our game, how you’re going to measure owners is just like last year - the Yankees won a championship because they went out and pursued a franchise player.’’

Boras uses the Teixeira comparison a lot with Holliday. Teixeira proved himself in one aspect of the “franchise player’’ checklist by winning the Series, and Boras said, “Matt has already served the example that he was in Colorado [in 2007] and he was the NLCS MVP and led his team to the World Series. Can Matt Holliday lead his club to the promised land? The league championship? Been there, done it.’’

Further pitching his client, Boras said a franchise player has to be one who “performs at a high level and must be in that MVP discussion annually or many times in your career. You have to be viewed as a complete player. Drive in 100 runs and be a middle-part-of-the-lineup hitter.

“The other part is that when you are called upon to lead a club that may not be a championship-caliber team to the World Series, you have all this evidence that he can take a very young team and put them on his back and lead them there.

“By any definition of what a franchise player is, it’s a player who attracts fans and represents himself well and speaks well, his leadership among players. If you could speak to the Colorado athletes about Matt in the five years he was there, they could address what they think a franchise player should be.’’

One A’s official said of Holliday, “He was the hardest-working player I ever saw. He took extra hitting every single day. He lifted weights, he prepared like nobody else. The way he went about his business was an eye-opener to our players. The guy wants to be the best.’’

As it did with Teixeira, the bidding for Holliday may come down to four or five teams. “If you’ve got five teams in it, that’s a big number,’’ Boras said.

The Sox, Yankees, Cardinals, Mets, Braves and others may all be in it. The Cardinals would love to be able to re-sign him, but they’re saying they may not have the budget to do so. Boras is kicking the tires, which he normally does in November. By the winter meetings, things will escalate.

“I think what November has become is a greeting card month,’’ he said. “There are invitations. There are checking points. There’s certainly a methodology to what every franchise does, but right now there’s the exhaustion of what I call the pliable market. Finding out from ownership meetings in October and seeing what the GMs are going to want to carry economically.’’

Nick Cafardo can be reached at

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