NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- Clean-shaven and wearing the pinstripes for the first time, Matt Holliday stood in the runway to the home dugout at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday afternoon, looking out at the field while posing underneath Joe DiMaggio's famed words thanking the Good Lord for making him a Yankee.This
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- Clean-shaven and wearing the pinstripes for the first time, Matt Holliday stood in the runway to the home dugout at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday afternoon, looking out at the field while posing underneath Joe DiMaggio's famed words thanking the Good Lord for making him a Yankee.
This could be, Holliday thought, "a really good fit." Holliday officially became a member of the Yankees on Wednesday, as the seven-time All-Star and four-time Silver Slugger Award winner finalized a one-year, $13 million agreement that will install him in the heart of the Bombers' lineup.
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"I was excited about the opportunity to be a Yankee," Holliday said. "I think this team has got a chance to be very competitive, which was very important to me. I think understanding some of my opportunities and where they might be, this was one that really appealed to me and what I enjoy doing."
Holliday, 36, agreed to the contract on Sunday. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said that Holliday was appealing because he was willing to accept a short-term contract, would not cost the Yankees a Draft pick and should not block the progress of any of the Yanks' rising prospects.
Cashman added that, if healthy, a combination of Gary Sánchez, Greg Bird and Holliday projects to outproduce what the Yanks squeezed from the heart of their lineup in 2016, when they banked heavily on Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira repeating their performances of a season prior.
Wearing No. 7 as a tribute to fellow Oklahoman Mickey Mantle, Holliday batted .246 with a .322 on-base percentage and a .461 slugging percentage in 110 games for the Cardinals this past season, collecting 20 doubles, one triple and 20 home runs with 62 RBIs.
Advanced stats offer some encouraging signs. The Yankees noted that, among batters who had least 100 batted balls in play in 2016, Holliday ranked third in the Majors with an average exit velocity of 94.7 mph, trailing only Nelson Cruz (95.9) and Giancarlo Stanton (95.1) according to Statcast™.
"I think if I combine the exit velocity with maybe a little more lift on the ball, I think my numbers could really get back to what they have been my whole career," Holliday said. "I think it's a good sign that the exit velocity was really high."
Holliday missed nearly seven weeks late in the season due to a fractured right thumb, sustained after being hit with a 94-mph fastball by the Cubs' Mike Montgomery on Aug. 11. Holliday opted for surgery and was able to return in time to hit an opposite-field homer on the season's final weekend.
"Getting hit by a fastball in the thumb was not really something where you say, 'He's fragile' or 'He's getting old' or 'He's missing time again,'" Holliday said. "You get hit in the thumb, that would have broken a 20-year-old's thumb. I feel pretty good about what physically I can do."
The right-handed hitter owns a lifetime .303 average with 295 home runs and 1,153 RBIs in 1,773 games for the Cardinals, Rockies and Athletics, and he believes Yankee Stadium will be a good match for his all-fields approach.
"My strengths of driving the ball to the right-center-field gap line up pretty well," Holliday said. "I think I have at times some mishits in the air to right field that could potentially be rewarded with a shorter porch in right field."
Holliday figures to see most of his time as a designated hitter, something he has dabbled with during Interleague Play. He could also see time as a corner outfielder and as a backup to the projected Greg Bird/Tyler Austin platoon at first base, where he has played 10 career games -- all this past season.
"I plan on being ready to do any of the three things, whether it's a little bit of outfield, first base, DH," Holliday said. "Whatever they want me to do, I plan to be prepared for that in my offseason training, taking ground balls and things like that. I'll be ready for Spring Training to do whatever's asked."
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.