Holliday, Cards finalize $120 million, 7-year deal

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ST. LOUIS (AP) — Matt Holliday hopes to be teammates with Albert Pujols for a long time.

“I think he’s going to be here at least two more years and hopefully forever,” Holliday said Thursday after finalizing his $120 million, seven-year contract with the St. Louis Cardinals. “Hopefully, he’ll be here for the rest of his career and we can do some damage.”

Coming off his third NL MVP award, Pujols is entering the final guaranteed season of a $100 million, seven-year contract that includes a $16 million team option for 2011.

Chairman Bill DeWitt said there have been no negotiations on an extension for Pujols, who told the team recently to take care of more pressing matters.

“We haven’t started those discussions yet, other than informally to let him know we’re interested,” DeWitt said. “We’ve got time, with two years and spring training a bit away.”

Holliday, who held up his new No. 7 jersey (he wore No. 15 with the Cardinals last season), said he hadn’t had much contact with Pujols aside from exchanging text messages of encouragement.

Holliday is looking forward to working with batting instructor Mark McGwire and manager Tony La Russa.

Holliday and McGwire hit together last offseason when both were living in California and said the two were “good friends.”

“I’m excited to see how he does as a hitting coach,” Holliday said. “I think he’ll do great. He’s a very good communicator and I think people are very interested to see what he has to say.”

McGwire, hired in October to be the Cardinals hitting coach, still hasn’t held his introductory news conference.

“We’re working towards something,” said general manager John Mozeliak, who didn’t anticipate it would happen soon.

Holliday has no worries that the 65-year-old La Russa, who signed a one-year extension in October, is close to retirement.

“I trust if we’re playing well, Tony is going to manage,” Holliday said. “I don’t see him quitting anytime soon, but I could be wrong. If we win a World Series, I think he’ll be back.”

Holliday, Pujols and pitcher Chris Carpenter will combine to make $47.5 million next season, including $7 million in salary that will be deferred without interest. DeWitt expects the Cardinals payroll, which was $102.7 million last year, will remain about the same.

“You don’t want all young players because you want to be competitive and you don’t want all mature players because you can’t really afford them,” DeWitt said. “It’s the blend that makes it work, and I think we have that blend.”

Pitcher Adam Wainwright, who won 19 games last season, said he hopes the combined salaries of Holliday and Pujols do not make it financially difficult for the Cardinals to keep him in a few years.

“I fully intend to pitch at a level that requires my pay to go up,” Wainwright said. “I hope the Cardinals can keep me as long as they can.”

It’s unclear whether the Cardinals will try to sign free-agent third baseman Miguel Tejada, who might be too expensive. Mozeliak wouldn’t discuss Tejada after Holliday’s news conference.

Holliday’s deal was finalized two days after the two sides reached a preliminary agreement that was subject to a physical.

Dealt to the Cardinals from Oakland in July, Holliday hit .353 with 13 homers and 55 RBIs in 63 games for St. Louis. Holliday, who turns 30 on Jan. 15, helped propel the team to the NL Central title while batting cleanup behind Pujols.

Holliday’s new uniform number matches the length of his contract. He had worn No. 5 with Oakland, and he joked that he offered Pujols a watch for the number. He had wanted to get away from 15.

“I know Jim Edmonds was a big deal and he wore No. 15,” Holliday said.

Holliday and agent Scott Boras said other teams were competitive in the bidding, although they wouldn’t specify who else was involved.

“I appreciate the interest I got from other teams,” Holliday said. “I wanted to come back, but I had options.”

Holliday’s time with the Cardinals wasn’t all positive, of course. He dropped a routine fly ball that would have been the final out of a St. Louis victory in Game 2 of the playoffs, allowing the Los Angeles Dodgers to rally en route to a three-game sweep.

“I think if I’d just missed the ball, if I hadn’t lost it in the lights which happens to a lot of outfielders, it probably would bother me,” Holliday said. “It really hasn’t bothered me that much. Obviously, the timing of it was bad, but sometimes those things happen.”