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Are the Cardinals in deep trouble if they don’t lock Pujols up before spring training?

Jan 10, 2011, 3:09 PM EDT

Albert Pujols

Anthony Castrovince on the Albert Pujols situation:

But if Pujols’ long-term status remains uncertain going into and through the season, then the drama surrounding the situation could easily eclipse the circus involving Jeter and the Yanks earlier this winter. Because with Pujols, we’re talking about the game’s premier player. In his prime. And while the Yankees and Red Sox, by virtue of already possessing Mark Teixeira and Adrian Gonzalez, respectively, probably wouldn’t be bidders, every other team in the game with money to spend would be circling over Pujols, ready to pounce.

I think the Cardinals should lock up Pujols and everything, but really, is it as dire as many say?  With the Yankees and Red Sox out of it, every other team may be “ready to pounce,” but it also means that the two teams most likely to overpay Pujols are out of it too.  Put differently, the Cardinals don’t have to worry too much about being outbid by anyone if, for some reason, Pujols makes it to free agency after the 2011 season, nor do they have to worry about there being some more notable historically prominent team competing for his services.

I wouldn’t want to wait around if I were the Cardinals — what if Adrian Gonzalez breaks his arm tomorrow and doesn’t re-up with the Red Sox as expected? — but it doesn’t seem like they’d face some dire situation if Pujols does hit the market and other teams start sniffing around. They’d still be the biggest dog and most friendly landing pad for Pujols. They don’t stand to be bidding against anyone with a significantly bigger budget.  They could still get it done just fine.

  1. yankeesfanlen - Jan 10, 2011 at 3:15 PM

    Did I detect an inference that Beep-beep is not in his prime?

    • spudchukar - Jan 10, 2011 at 3:18 PM

      Even if unintended it is correct.

  2. Kanonen80 - Jan 10, 2011 at 3:19 PM

    I’m pretty sure, if Pujols hit the market, that the Yankees would be interested. I forget how much longer Posada’s contract is, but I’m fairly certain they will find room for Posada, Pujols and Tex between C, 1B and DH. Pujols is a rare talent, and I wouldn’t pass on him just because I have my DH spot reserved for an aging catcher. My 2 cents.

    • yankeesfanlen - Jan 10, 2011 at 3:21 PM

      Grumpy is done after this year; I’m gilding the watch.

    • timstl - Jan 10, 2011 at 3:29 PM

      I’ve thought about that. And the general idea makes sense. The problem is Pujols, though. He’s a gold glover who would have little to no interest in DHing. Would Tex move to DH? Or Gonzalez (in the Red Sox case)? Maybe. But they are solid defenders, too. It seems like a waste.

      As Alex said below, the Cubs seem more likely on the surface. But he wants to win, and history shows that’s not exactly the Cubs strength.

    • Ari Collins - Jan 10, 2011 at 3:32 PM

      Even with Posada gone, the Yanks are going to need that DH spot for the rest of their aging hitters pretty soon. I can see your argument, though; the Yankees will be better with Pujols even if it means leaving their poorer defenders at defensive positions.

      You can make a slightly better argument for the Sox to get him and move Gonzalez to DH, I suppose.

      The real issue is that he’s worth more to other teams with a true open spot at 1B. In a market that acts rationally. Which, granted, MLB does not always do.

    • bigharold - Jan 10, 2011 at 3:37 PM

      You can bet the Yankees would be interested.

      Posada’s contract is up after this year and it’s not likely he’ll be back in any capacity. Pujols came up as a 3B man. If Youkilus can go back to 3B I’m sure Pujols can too. Between DH, 3B and 1B there would be more than enough room for A-Rod, Teixeira and Pujols.

      The real question is would Pujols accept that arrangement. I get the impression that he doesn’t see himself as a merely a hitter or DH but more of a complete baseball player. But, for the right contract he just might go along with it.

      Be afraid Yankee haters .. very very afraid.

      • spudchukar - Jan 10, 2011 at 3:44 PM

        Pujols could never return to third-base. If he could he would have done so by now, what with the 3B problems the Cards have experienced over the past couple of years. His right elbow prohibits him. Pretty much goes for any other position too, and there is no way he would ever accept a DH job.

      • miket5 - Jan 10, 2011 at 4:17 PM

        no way does pujols move to 3rd base

      • paperlions - Jan 10, 2011 at 4:33 PM

        Pujols has had elbow problems that are aggravated by throwing. If surgery fixes that, 3B would be a sometimes-option, can’t see him playing there full time.

      • spudchukar - Jan 10, 2011 at 6:06 PM

        He needs Tommy John surgery. He doesn’t want to do that and who is going to pay him 30 mil to sit out for a year and a half?

    • phillysoulfan - Jan 10, 2011 at 6:25 PM

      @Kanonen80 – I was reading this and thinking the same exact thing plus isn’t Ortiz the DH in Boston? I’d think Pujols would be an upgrade there too. Also, who plays first base for the Angels and DH? Dodgers would most certainly throw their hats into the ring for him, assuming ownership situation can be sorted out. Cubs also have a need at 1B. And what about the White Sox? Who do they have at 1B/DH? The Rays just lost a lot of players, maybe they would be interested? And the Mets? If they want to compete for the NL East in the next 5-10 years, they would NEED to get Pujols.

      So basically, I just came up with 8 teams that COULD be interested in Pujols and all but 1 are in large markets and tend to pay when needed. So I really don’t know where this guy is coming from.

  3. Alex K - Jan 10, 2011 at 3:21 PM

    I think the Cubs have shown they will overpay. Plus, they have a need at 1B, and their budget is significantly bigger than STL. I’m not saying it is anywhere on anyone’s radar, but still possible.

    • iranuke - Jan 10, 2011 at 3:51 PM

      The problem with this argument is that it will be VERY difficult to overpay for Mr. Pujols. He is worth 6 to 8 WAR each year, and the going rate for each WAR is about $5/WAR/year. If he settles for an A-rod contract, he might still be underpayed.

      • Mark - Jan 10, 2011 at 4:38 PM

        Actually it’s quite the opposite. It’d be very easy to overpay Albert Pujols, because you’re signing him as he enters his age 32 season. He’s not going to keep posting 6-8 WAR seasons from age 32-39, and I say to 39 because you know he’s going to get a long term deal.

        Look at Frank Thomas – he was basically Pujols with the bat before Pujols existed (169 OPS+ from age 22-31 for Thomas vs 172 for Pujols career). Obviously Pujols is a better fielder/runner, but that’s not the point I’m getting at. It would be very easy to pay for Pujols based on how he plays now (6-8 WAR seasons) and get the production of a guy entering his decline phase.

        As for the Sox/Yanks not being interested – you tell Tex or Gonzalez to move to the DH. They may bitch about not playing the field, but do you think they’re gonna turn down the chance to play with Pujols? I don’t think so.

      • Ari Collins - Jan 10, 2011 at 10:15 PM

        The thing is, though, no one pays enough for a 6-8 win player, and he’ll still be at that level for a while. You’d probably peg him as a true talent 8 win player next year. (The Fangraphs fan projection has him at 8.4, and a 5/3/2 projection has him at 8.1.) If you give him an average decline rate of half a win a year (I’d guess he beats that projection, being an all-time great and all, but he’s also battled injuries, so who knows), then over a 7 year deal he averages 6.5 wins a year. At $5 million a win, he’s a $32.5M a year player. If you extend him for 9 years, he’s a 5.5 win a year player, making him worth a mere $27.5M a year. Then if you factor in inflation and some backloading of the deal, plus the value of winning now versus winning later, all of which I’m too lazy/ignorant to do any math on, it wouldn’t surprise me if a 10 year $300M deal wouldn’t be an overpay.

  4. madhatternalice - Jan 10, 2011 at 3:25 PM

    This kind of annoys me. Why does Anthony think there’s going to be a circus? Pujols is a professional, as are the 24 other players on his team.

    Oh, right. It’ll become a circus because those folks in the media, like Anthony, will harp on it every other week.

    • Ari Collins - Jan 10, 2011 at 3:29 PM

      +1

    • Jonny 5 - Jan 11, 2011 at 8:05 AM

      No, you’re wrong. Dead wrong. They’ll harp on it daily making it a 3 ring circus. ;)

  5. Ari Collins - Jan 10, 2011 at 3:27 PM

    Some other teams that might “overpay”:

    Cubs
    Nationals
    Tigers
    Giants

    … so yeah, not that great a list without the big AL East spenders involved. There are some other teams with a need at 1B, but none of those have a recent history of big contracts that I can see.

    Guess the real issue is whether the Cardinals think his price will go down or up between now and FA. I’d say unless he’s being really unrealistic, his price will go up, so it could still be very costly for them not to sign him now. Just not as costly as if the Sox/Yankees were involved.

    • Panda Claus - Jan 11, 2011 at 8:10 AM

      I think the list of suitors for Pujols would be 30 teams deep, although clearly half the teams have no interest in spending that type of money. I could easily see the White Sox, Angels and Orioles try to squeeze past the bouncer at the door to get into this party.

      Let’s put it this way, if Pujols hits the open market the Cliff Lee sweepstakes quickly looks like a bargain bin pickup found at a neighborhood garage sale. Would that be the end of the world for the Cards? Not necessarily, unless he went to the Cubs, then “yes” it would be.

  6. spudchukar - Jan 10, 2011 at 3:27 PM

    I fantasize about the negotiations often. Primarily around the thought that Pujols would defer a lot of his salary and sign a ten-year contract for around 275 mil. Then insist the ownership spend the 10-15 mil per year they are saving on his home-town discount for a legitimate closer and second-baseman. But I fantasize alot and seldom do those dreams come true. But not coming to terms soon would be a nightmare, and while all your contentions about the Red Sox and Yankees are valid, why tempt fate. GET IT DONE NOW, before Barnam and Bailey start booking dates.

  7. Chris Fiorentino - Jan 10, 2011 at 3:37 PM

    I missed something Craig…did they get rid of the DH in the American League? Why would the Yankers care about having 2 high-priced first basemen? If you were Tex, would you say “No, I don’t want to play with A-Rod and Pujols” because it will make me a DH? Or would you say “Sh*t Yeah!!!”? Come on. The Red Sox could too, although they really paid alot this year for A-Gonz and Crawdaddy and I don’t see them making more than a “Let’s raise the bidding for the Yankers” offer to Lord Albert.

    To say, right now, that the Yankers and Red Sox would not be in the bidding is absolutely 100% ludicrous!!!

    • madhatternalice - Jan 10, 2011 at 4:41 PM

      Is it? No one’s questioning the Yankee’s offense. It’s their pitching that needs help, and that’s where they’ll spend their money.

      But let’s imagine a situation where the Yankees would want him. How would that conversation go?

      “Hey, Tex, we know we signed you to play 1st, but we have a chance to bring in Pujols, so we want you to eliminate the defensive part of your game to play DH.”

      or

      “Hey, Albert! We’re really excited to bring you on board. Listen, we know you’re a 417 time Gold Glove winner at 1st base, but we’d like you to DH. Cool?”

      Can you honestly imagine either of those conversations happening? Or either player agreeing? Nonsense.

      I’m the first person to stand up and pronounce my dislike for the Yankees (Orioles fan born and raised), but I’m not naive to think that just because they CAN do something doesn’t mean they WILL.

      • bigharold - Jan 10, 2011 at 5:25 PM

        “… I’m not naive to think that just because they CAN do something doesn’t mean they WILL.”

        True enough and you points are well taken but, it’s certainly entirely possible too.

        Remember, nobody saw the A-Rod to the Yankees trade coming in 2004. And, had you raise a similar point then about asking a GG SS to move to 3B it would have sounded entirely logical too. Nevertheless, A-Rod came and switched positions. And, at the time he, like Pujols was considered the best player in the game in his prime. Almost the exact same age.

        I’m not saying that there is a good chance the Yankees go get Pujols if he hits the market but it’s not beyond the realm of possible either. If the Cardinals are foolish enough to let him get as far as free agency the chances are the Yankees will take a very hard look at him. Then, anything is possible. Very few teams are capable of coughing up the 8-10 year 28-30 mil per year contract that Pujols will command and even fewer are willing to. The Yankees can and the fact that they don’t actually need a 1B isn’t necessarily an obstacle.

        If there is a top of the rotation pitcher to be had in free agency next off season then I’d expect the Yankees to go there first but if Pujols is available the Yankees will certainly be in on it.

      • spudchukar - Jan 10, 2011 at 5:59 PM

        A fair argument Big Harry but I just don’t think they would be willing to pay the luxury tax that would accompany a Pujols signing.

      • madhatternalice - Jan 11, 2011 at 8:11 AM

        You’re absolutely right, @bigharold. The difference is that A-Rod agreed to play another defensive position. One of those two would be asked to NOT play a defensive position, and I think that’s where the hangup would be.

  8. buddaley - Jan 10, 2011 at 3:41 PM

    Even with Kendry Morales coming back, isn’t it possible that the Angels would get into the bidding, especially if their disappointments this off-season are blamed should they not keep pace with Texas and Oakland in 2011?

    And what about Seattle? Isn’t there a lot of money there? Or the Mets? Despite Ike Davis, it seems to me they could make room for Pujols, and imagine how that would play for the rivalry between Mets and Yankee fans.

    • RickyB - Jan 10, 2011 at 3:54 PM

      Hey, didn’t you pitch for the ’61 Yankees (not to mention the KC Athletics and the Indians)?

      • buddaley - Jan 10, 2011 at 4:38 PM

        Not only that, but I won the final game of the 1961 World Series after Ralph Terry gave up half of a 6-0 lead in the 3rd inning. I finished the game with 6.2 innings of relief giving up 2 runs, both unearned.

        And I also pitched 3.1 innings of shutout relief for Whitey Ford against the Tigers on September 1, 1961 to allow the Yankees to win 1-0 and keep Detroit at bay. Going into that 3 game series, Detroit was just 1.5 games behind. The Yankees went on to sweep the series and Detroit lost about 9 straight to fall out of the race.

        Of course, it was Bud Daley who was involved, not me. But in 1961, he was my favorite player.

  9. Mr. Jason "El Bravo" Heyward - Jan 10, 2011 at 3:49 PM

    I wouldn’t count the Yanks and Red Sox out if he hits free agency. The Cards are CRAZY if they don’t lock him up for what ever the cost may be TODAY! The Cubs would pay him anything he asks to come over to the division rivals, I’m guessing.

  10. hackerjay - Jan 10, 2011 at 4:17 PM

    I also think it’s worth mentioning that most of the big “overpay’s” in the game have come from mid-market teams that wanted to make a name for themselves, so I don’t think there will be any shortage ofg people willing to overpay for Albert.

    • spudchukar - Jan 10, 2011 at 5:23 PM

      If you “overpay” for Albert don’t you “overpay” for everyone?

  11. Jonny 5 - Jan 10, 2011 at 4:20 PM

    I think the Yankees don’t need him. Therefore the Yankees won’t want him. They can pick up a DH easy enough without throwing Tex into the DH spot. He’s very good where he is and some players don’t make it as a DH for some reason….. I wouldn’t want to make that very expensive mistake if I were them. Which won’t matter anyway since the cards sign him, and he retires a card.

  12. uyf1950 - Jan 10, 2011 at 5:32 PM

    First let me start this post by saying there is no way the Cardinals let Pujols get away. He is going to be a Cardinal in 2011 and BEYOND of that there is no doubt. For those of you that like to bring the Yankees into every conceivable conversation about every FA or prospective FA. There is not one situation I can see them signing Pujols. First they don’t need a 1st baseman or a DH and won’t need one for the foreseeable future. Their offensive is already one of the best in all the Major Leagues that includes leading the ML’s in run differential. Second they need pitching even if Pettitte comes back for one more year pitching will be the priority and where they spend their money for the next 2 or 3 years. The only reliable starting pitchers the Yankees can count on after this season (if Pettitte comes back) is CC and Hughes. AJ’s contract goes through 2013 but I would bet the house if he struggles again this coming season after last year, he’s gone even if the Yankees have to eat part of his contract. That will leave the Yankees looking for 2 starting pitchers a #2 & #4 or a #3 & #4 depending how Hughes progresses this year.

    • bigharold - Jan 10, 2011 at 5:56 PM

      ” First they don’t need a 1st baseman or a DH and won’t need one for the foreseeable future.”

      The Yankees didn’t need a SS when they traded for A-Rod either but it didn’t stop them either.

      “Their offensive is already one of the best in all the Major Leagues that includes leading the ML’s in run differential.”

      So what? Because their run differential is good they shouldn’t try to improve it? The Yankee need for pitching has no bearing on their need for offense. They have a greater need too, .. to fill Yankee Stadium regularly. Pujols will certainly help that.

      Is it likely that the Yankees will sign Pujols? No. Is it possible? Yes. Do the Yankees have the resources to sign Pujols along with a front line starter or two over the next couple of years? Absolutely! Only time will tell if the Cardinals’ aren’t smart enough to sign Pujols before he gets as far as free agency. But, if he gets that far, I would expect the Yankees to be in the middle of it. Then, anything is possible.

      • uyf1950 - Jan 10, 2011 at 6:36 PM

        My friend you are missing a couple of points. When the Yankees signed ARod they had a position he could fill 3rd base. It’s not all that uncommon for a player to move from SS to 3rd base, Cal Ripkin sound familiar. Second both ARod and Tex already have long term contracts that go out till 2017 & 2016 respectively. The last thing they need is another long term contract for a position player for a position that doesn’t exist or they are not in need of. There will be plenty of opportunities for the Yankees to sign a 1st rate 1st or 3rd baseman as ARod’s and Tex’s contract get closer to expiring. Of course the Yankees can afford him and the pitchers I was referring to, but that’s not the point. The point is setting priorities and pitching is the 1st and 2nd priorities for the Yankees. Your comment and I quote “The Yankee need for pitching has no bearing on their need for offense”. Simply makes a false/inaccurate premise. The Yankees do not currently or in the foreseeable future NEED to improve their offense. Finally, in case you haven’t noticed there is/are new sheriff’s in Yankeeland and they are Hank & Hal Steinbrenner. These are not the Boss’s Yankees any longer and cost does have some bearing on the way the Yankees will operate and who they will sign in the future. As far as filling up the few remaining 3 or 4 thousand seats the vast majority that go for over $1,500 winning but more importantly an improvement in the overall economy will take care of that.

      • bigharold - Jan 11, 2011 at 5:45 AM

        Signing Pujols isn’t likely to happen but to dismiss it as impossible, e.g. “There is not one situation I can see them signing Pujols.” means you aren’t paying attention.

        “The Yankees do not currently or in the foreseeable future NEED to improve their offense.”

        Wrong and short sighted. First every team NEEDS to improve their offense whenever they can, the Yankees are no different. In fact, if they continue to be stymied in their efforts to acquire a front line pitcher improving their offense would in fact become a greater priority.

        “Of course the Yankees can afford him and the pitchers I was referring to, but that’s not the point”

        That is exactly the point! The Yankees don’t operate under the same constraints as most other teams. The Yankees can afford a player the caliber of Pujols AND a front line starter. It’s more a question of who is available and willing to be a Yankee. How so, .. because they are the Yankees. It’s more a question of who is available and willing to be a Yankee. Lee proved that the Yankees don’t always get the player they want. Does the off season of 2008-2009 “sound familiar”? The Yankees inked three players for contracts worth about 420 million dollars. That demonstrates that they are capable and if the right player(s) comes along willing as well.

        “… in case you haven’t noticed there is/are new sheriff’s in Yankeeland and they are Hank & Hal Steinbrenner.”

        You mean the same guys that gave A-Rod that lavish extension after he opted out AFTER they said they wouldn’t resign him if he opted out? Perhaps the more things change the more they stay the same? In case you had noticed they are the same guys that signed off on Sabathia, Burnett and Teixeira. If the right situation presents itself they’ve proven they will act aggressively.

        They may not be the Boss’s Yankees anymore but the current owners seem to understand that they are sports entrepreneurs. That putting a winning and exciting product on the field is the key to success. It not plugging holes and being fiscally conservative. On a very important level it’s about star power and show business, .. it’s about the Yankee way. They’re called the Bronx Bombers for a reason.

        There are very few teams that can afford the type of contract that Pujols will command and the Yankees are at the top of that list. It isn’t likely that he’ll ever be in pinstripes mostly because I’d guess he doesn’t want to change positions or just DH. But if he makes it as far as free agency the Yankees will be involved. The idea that the Yankees can’t or wont even try because they have other needs or really can’t afford another big long term contract is at best uninformed.

      • uyf1950 - Jan 11, 2011 at 6:55 AM

        Oh, the Yankees may get their feet wet and test the water so to speak IF Pujols were to make it to FA. But that’s as far as I see it getting. But your comparison to the ARod signing with potential Pujols interest again ignores a couple of very important facts. When ARod opted out after the 2007 season the Yankees effectively only had one long term contract on their books that was the 3 years remaining on Jeter’s 10 year contract at $19M per. They also were moving into a very expensive and opulent new stadium the following year. The Yankees needed to make a “splash”. That is not or would not be the case come 2012. IF the Yankees were to go after Pujols as you mention after this season they still have 3 long term contracts on the books. CC’s for about $23M per which doesn’t expire until after 2015. Tex’s for about $23M per witch doesn’t expire until after 2016 and ARod’s for about $25M on average per which doesn’t expire until after 2017. There is a huge difference between the 3 years remaining on $19M per season from Jeter’s remaining contract at the time to the approximately $70M+ they currently have in long term contracts that will go for another 4 to 6 years. Add on top of that whatever the Yankees would have to commit to signing “quality” pitchers long term in the next year or 2 and practically speaking going after Pujols with the intent of signing him long term to a contract that could conceivably run from 2012 to 2020 if not longer is impractical. On top of that the Yankees will be 3 years removed from the opening of the stadium.
        I’ve already admitted the Yankees could afford Pujols that’s not the issue. The issue is would they be willing to commit the necessary money and years to fill a position that they don’t have or need to fill now or in the immediate future when they have other more pressing needs. There will be plenty of opportunities for the Yankees to sign a 1st rate 1st or 3rd baseman as ARod’s and Tex’s contract get closer to expiring as I mentioned previously. Obviously we have differing viewpoints/opinions on this. We will just have to wait and see what happens should Pujols hit FA.

      • yankeesfanlen - Jan 11, 2011 at 8:27 AM

        Quite some time ago, I did a little skit, which may be worth revisiting:

        Scene: Yankees Tampa HQ.

        Hal: “Brian, I’m sick of this luxury tax payment, Randy’s getting all over me”

        Brian: “Yes, sir, I’ll get the best and keep it at $200M, we’re doing okay with the prospects and have some money cominbg off in ‘;12 from Grumpy”

        Hal: “Good man. You’re a True Yankee”

        Entering stage left, smoking a Marlboro, Hank: “Hey, I just signed Pujols for $33M a year for twelve years”

        Hal: ” GREAT!!!!! You’re a true Steinbrenner. Dad would be proud. Now let’s get rid of that management-by-objective stat head Joe and have some fun.”

        Scene dissolves with all enjoying a bubbly beverage, Randy comes in to join the celebration.

  13. Jonny 5 - Jan 11, 2011 at 8:08 AM

    ASS-uming he becomes a FA…. I don’t think anyone running any team believes Albert will ever see FA, not until his next contract with the cards is up at least. In 7 more years….

    • uyf1950 - Jan 11, 2011 at 8:12 AM

      Couldn’t agree more.

      • yankeesfanlen - Jan 11, 2011 at 8:31 AM

        I told you never to discuss family business.

      • Jonny 5 - Jan 11, 2011 at 8:57 AM

        Don’t listen to lenny. Whatever you do…. He crazy!

      • yankeesfanlen - Jan 11, 2011 at 9:07 AM

        It’s my diabolical plot to turn this into a Yankees Blog. So far, mission accomplished- an innocent Cards story turned into 26 out of 43 comments revolving around the Universe

      • Jonny 5 - Jan 11, 2011 at 9:27 AM

        You sir, are evil. Which is a very endearing trait for a NYY fan. You the man Len.

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