Matt Holliday was a solid free agent signing that just didn’t work out for the Yankees in the end. Brian Cashman got him on a $13 million contract for one year to be the team’s designated hitter. After an up and down year, Holliday has contributed nothing to the Yankees’ playoff run, but that will need to change at some point.
Holliday’s 2017 has really been the tale of two seasons. He hit .262/.366/.511 with 15 home runs through the middle of June, making his contract well worth it by that point. Unfortunately, things fell apart for him when the team traveled to the west coast. Holliday apparently contracted a virus that essentially ravaged his playing abilities and turned his bat anemic. He spent two stints on the disabled list and could only muster a .179/.225/.300 batting line the rest of the way.
Because of these struggles, it should be no surprise that Joe Girardi opted to keep him out of the starting lineup in the playoffs, but if he’s going to be here, he’s going to need to be allowed to do something. At first I thought that the Yankees should just take him off the roster, because if they’re not going to give him more than one chance to start, they aren’t going to use him in key situations anyway.
After thinking it over a little more, I realized that the Yankees already made their mistake wasting a roster spot to this point; they can’t get rid of him now because this is basically the only time he will be useful. If the Yankees can win one more game against the Astros, they will advance to the World Series. What happens in the World Series? The pitchers bat.
So far the Yankees have done fine using Chase Headley as DH or pinch hitter, but the dynamic of the game changes if and when they advance and have to travel to Dodger Stadium. They will need more than one pinch hitter, which is where Holliday would come in. Despite his struggles this year, He has remained effective against lefties with a 125 wRC+ against them. Deploying a hitter like that for one key at-bat in a game could be crucial to the team’s chances.
Of course, the Yankees have plenty other options to choose from if they don’t believe Matt Holliday can help. Clint Frazier and Tyler Austin could both serve as right-handed power off the bench. Tyler Wade could also provide game-changing speed, if Girardi wants to go a different route. Considering the fact that Holliday has lingered for this long, you have to imagine he will be around the whole way through.
The Yankees have two chances to win one more game in Houston, so maybe we see Holliday at some point. If he contributes, it will be a huge step toward him becoming a real role player on this team. If not, it won’t be any different than how things have been for the past four months.