January 05, 2010

The St. Louis Cardinals have agreed to a seven-year, $120 million deal with Matt Holliday, SI.com has learned. Holliday will also get a full no-trade clause.

Holliday batted .353 with 13 home runs and 55 RBIs in 63 games with the Cardinals after being acquired in a July trade from the Oakland Athletics. He helped stabilize their batting order by providing a consistent power threat in the cleanup spot behind NL MVP Albert Pujols. When they added Holliday on July 24, the Cardinals led the NL Central by just 1½ games, but by the end of August their lead had swelled to 10 games and they cruised to the division title.

The Cardinals had offered $112 million for seven years sometimes in the past couple weeks, according to sources, and the sides negotiated from there. That proposed deal was worth roughly $16 million per, but Holliday was seeking more annual money than Jason Bay recently received from the Mets in his four-year, $66 million contract. Besides topping Bay's total value by some $54 million, Holliday's contract -- which includes an eighth-year vesting option at $17 million if holliday finishes in the top 10 in MVP voting in the seventh year -- will pay him more than $17 million on average for each of the seven seasons.

The Cardinals are hoping to use this deal to show Albert Pujols how committed they are to winning. Pujols' contract expires after the 2011 season.

Scott Boras, Holliday's agent, originally suggested his client should be paid on par with Mark Teixeira, another Boras client who signed an eight-year, $180 million deal with the Yankees last offseason. But many baseball executives predicted that in this economic environment that Holliday, despite being a terrific hitter in his own right, wouldn't crack even $100 million, because he can't quite match Teixeira's power or defense.

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