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DENVER – Thursday morning’s announcement that all-time Colorado Rockies great Matt Holliday would once again don the purple pinstripes didn’t come as a major shock to anyone who had been following the news with him over the last few weeks.
To see his name penciled immediately into the fifth spot in the lineup, starting in left field, was a bit more surprising but will surely be met with joyous celebration as fans old enough to remember the best player on the best team in franchise history can practically swim in the nostalgia.
As great a story as that is—as cool as it is to see him share a clubhouse with Carlos Gonzalez, who he was traded for, or debate “The Slide” with Bud Black, who experienced it from the Padres perspective—Holliday isn’t back in Denver to sell seats or jerseys.
He’s here to hit.
The 38-year-old is coming off a year in which he smacked 19 home runs for the Yankees and managed to put up almost league-average offense (98 wRC+) over 105 games. He hit .267 against left-handed pitching, 47 points higher than his right-on-right average, but slugged well against both.
His right-handed power, experience, and familiarity with National League pitching all make him the perfect solution to a problem that has plagued Colorado for much of the season. After Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story, there aren’t many right-handed bats in the organization to fear and they haven’t had a reliable bat off the bench all season until, arguably, Ryan McMahon began to emerge recently in his third stint at MLB this year.
Holliday steps into that role and brings a ton of value with him.
Having kept the wear and tear off his body by remaining a free agent all season, there remains a double-edged sword question in front of the veteran; Is he fresh or is he rusty?
“I feel really good,” he told reporters before his Rockies re-debut. “The last 10 days have been real positive. I’m real happy with the way my body has responded to playing outfield and first base and nine innings. I’ve been real pleased with how I’ve felt and how I’ve recovered and how my swing feels.”
Apparently, so are the Rockies, who threw him right into the fire.
The bat certainly showed up in a brief stint in Triple-A where he slashed .346/.452/.596 with three home runs and 14 RBI in 15 games.
He could easily be a key piece that gets this team where they need to go. And he doesn’t need to be the old Matt Holliday to do it.
Headed into a final month where the club has their best legitimate chance to win the division, maybe ever, having Holliday around is more than just a nice story. It’s a smart and potentially extremely valuable addition to a team on the hunt.
“I’m very confident with where I’m at with my baseball and I’m excited to get out here and play,” says Holliday.
And at this point, if you aren’t excited to see him take the field as a member of the Colorado Rockies once again, you might want to double check your pulse.