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The Cardinals are probably going to sign Albert Pujols, but it won’t be easy and it won’t all be positive…

Jan 16, 2011, 5:50 PM EST

St Louis Cardinals v Pittsburgh Pirates Getty Images

As the resident Cardinals supporter on this here blog, I feel it is my responsibility to riff a little on the Albert Pujols extension stuff.

It was reported Saturday that Pujols and his agent want talks to cease once spring training begins and Albert confirmed that deadline while speaking with the media Sunday in what MLB.com’s Matthew Leach called an “occasionally testy” press conference at the Cardinals’ Winter Warmup.

Assuming that Pujols and his representatives stick to that plan — and there’s no reason to think they won’t — the St. Louis front office has about a month to get a contract worked out.  Otherwise, the greatest hitter in the game today will hit free agency next winter at the age of 31.

If I’m Pujols’ agent, I’m asking for a nine-year deal worth $270 million.  I’m not expecting to sign at that number, but it’s where I would start.

No hitter in baseball history has been so consistently prolific to start a career and Pujols is no slouch on defense either.  He’s squeaky clean, a family man and infinitely marketable.

Pujols is without a doubt the best player in the sport and it is his agent’s job to ensure that he is paid as such.  Whether the historically excellent rate of production continues into the next decade is unknown and maybe even unlikely, but the Cardinals must pay for what he has already accomplished and what he might accomplish in the future.  Because if they don’t, someone else will.

You’ve probably heard the idea that the Yankees and Red Sox won’t try to a lure in a free agent Pujols because they are both already locked into multi-year contracts at first base.  I don’t believe it, not for a second.  The Yankees are committing DH duties in 2011 to Jorge Posada, a 39-year-old with bad knees.  The Red Sox will go with David Ortiz, who is 35 and playing in a body that isn’t aging well.  Why has it been determined that baseball’s top big money clubs won’t have openings?

The Yankees will try to get Pujols if he becomes a free agent.  The Red Sox will, too.  Mark it in ink.

Now, that doesn’t mean that Pujols is definitely going to leave St. Louis if a pact isn’t agreed upon before the opening of spring camp. If the Cardinals don’t like the slugger’s asking price this winter and decide to let him dip a toe in the free agent waters, they will still be a legitimate suitor on the other end.  Majority owner Bill DeWitt Jr. is a billionaire and has already made a killing off his $150 million purchase of the club in 1995.  He runs the team like a business — with the intention of making a profit — but he is also a legitimate fan.

The money is there to battle the big boys.  You’ll hear the Cardinals referred to as a mid-market team from time to time, but it’s completely false.  St. Louis is not a big town, but the fan base extends to all bordering states and beyond because of the strong radio signals that KMOX emitted when televisions weren’t in every home. You can find big pockets of folks wearing the “birds on the bat” in Arkansas, Tennessee, southern Illinois, Indiana, Oklahoma, Mississippi and Iowa.

The Cardinals are in the Top 5 of league-wide merchandise sales nearly every season and they pack three million fans into the new and somewhat publicly funded Busch Stadium on a yearly basis.

The money is flowing.

But it’s DeWitt’s team.  If he decides that it is bad business to outbid offers from the Yankees and Red Sox, or even the Giants, then it simply won’t happen.  And that rightly has Cardinals fans nervous.

I don’t have sources and I don’t know any of the involved negotiators personally, but I think the deal gets done just before spring training.  I think it will be an awful contract, maybe in the eight-year, $225 million range, and I think it’s going to hamstring the Cardinals for almost its entire duration.

When the Cards need to lock up Adam Wainwright after 2013, they won’t be able to.  When Colby Rasmus hits free agency, he won’t be brought back either.  DeWitt isn’t going to operate yearly with a $150 million payroll.  He is interested in making money, and that’s fine.

But I have a feeling — wise or not — that he is going to open the purse strings for Pujols before the Cardinals head down to Jupiter, Florida in late February because DeWitt knows what it will mean for public relations if El Hombre departs and because, well, there have been no discussions about a possible Plan B.

The Cards are going all in.

  1. Jonny 5 - Jan 16, 2011 at 6:23 PM

    Drew, while I’m totally enjoying watching NE get beat by the NY,But we reside in NJ Jets right now. What do you think the chances are of the Cards trading away another salary to make room for Alberts salary?

    • uyf1950 - Jan 16, 2011 at 6:30 PM

      Good point. I would think without question Carpenter gets traded before the 2012 option comes due, possible even this year sometime. It will give them at least some temporary relief that’s $15M per.

      • Jonny 5 - Jan 16, 2011 at 8:37 PM

        Or, an even larger salary…..

      • uyf1950 - Jan 17, 2011 at 9:17 AM

        To Jonny 5 – The problem as I see it for the Cardinals is once they re-sign Pujols to a long terms deal which has to be at least in the neighborhood of 8 years and $27M per, your right they have to cut payroll. Like I said earlier Carpenter is gone and Jake Westbrook (I believe for sure). There also is Wainwright I know he is signed through 2013 and relatively cheaply at that. But he is going to need to be extended long term as well. So just being conservative come approximately 2013 their payroll for just Pujols, Holliday and Wainwright will approach if not pass $60M per season for several years. That’s a lot for a team who traditionally over the past few years has kept their TOTAL team payroll to between $90 and $100M. So again my guess is at the very least Carpenter and Westbrook go away if not in 2011 by the trade deadline for sure by 2012. That’s just my opinion.

      • Jonny 5 - Jan 17, 2011 at 10:02 AM

        I’m pretty sure they will need to cut payroll, not because they “NEED” to. But because that’s the plan when they resign Albert, and it has been the plan for years. I’d say Carpenter could very well be offered up if not already. I also see Holliday being traded as well. Not saying both or either will go for sure, just that I feel it’s quite likely one will end up going.

      • uyf1950 - Jan 17, 2011 at 2:12 PM

        T Jonny5 –
        I think they might have a difficult time not impossible just a difficult time trading Holliday. When the 2012 season starts he will be 32 years old. He will still have 5 years left on his contract at $17M per (6 years if the 2017 team option year gets guaranteed). That’s going to be a pretty big pill for a lot of teams to swallow.
        Do you think the Phillies would be interested? They could use Holliday to beef up there offense. They certainly could use him in the outfield. I think if they were to do something with the Cardinals for Holliday they Phillies might look to not exercise their part of the option for Oswalt he would be 35 during the 2012 season if they kept him. Also at some point within the next year or so they are going to have to make a decision of extending Hamels.
        Another thought crossed my mind and I’m just thinking out loud. The Cardinals extending Pujols good be the best thing to happen for the Yankees. A lot of this may just be fanciful thinking. But imagine the Cardinals move Carpenter and Westbrook to clear salary. Or may either Carpenter OR Westbrook and Holliday. The Phillies jump on Holliday and then decline the 2012 option on Oswalt. That would leave the door open for the Yankees to sign either of the pitchers Carpenter, Westbrook or Oswalt should any one or combination be let go or traded. I know it’s a jump but not completely out of the realm of possibility. A lot of domino’s have to fall into place but sometimes it only take one to start the reaction.

      • Jonny 5 - Jan 17, 2011 at 2:47 PM

        With as good as Holliday has been, it’s not a far stretch to think the Phills would want him. He’s cheaper than Werth, and probably better as a right handed threat, which they need pretty badly. If they were to throw Blanton at the Cards, would they bite? I don’t know? But if Carpenter does go, Blanton would be a better replacement than any on the market right now. And the Phills are known to keep in touch with the Cards. The only reason the Phills want relief from Blanton’s contract imo, is to sign an OF who signs autographs with his right hand. if they can’t land someone who fits the bill I feel Blanton stays on board. Trading Holliday for Blanton is going to help them financially, they don’t have room for him on that rotation now, so I think it all hinges on Carpenter staying or going. It’s always fun to speculate isn’t it? BTW, I don’t see the Phills passing up the Oswalt option though, no matter what goes down. I think it would be silly.

      • uyf1950 - Jan 17, 2011 at 2:52 PM

        Jonny 5 – I don’t necessarily disagree with you about the Phillies and Oswalt but as you know Oswalt’s option is mutual as I’ve mentioned before. He might also be looking for an extension in the neighborhood of $20+M that the “other” high profile Philly pitchers are getting. Remember he can decline the option also. Like we said it is nice to speculate. A lot can happen and sometimes does. Like I said sometimes all it takes is one domino to start the whole chain reaction.

      • Jonny 5 - Jan 17, 2011 at 3:29 PM

        Yeah, It keeps slipping my mind about the whole “mutual” part of the deal. I guess all we can do is speculate, sit back and wait.

  2. uyf1950 - Jan 16, 2011 at 6:26 PM

    Mr. Silva – I personally do not believe either the Yankees or the Red Sox will be in on the bidding for Pujols if he does hit FA. For the sake of this post let’s assume you are correct and both the Yankees and Sox are interested in him. What happens for example with the Yankees. Tex has a contract that runs through 2016 and I will give you he’s not in Albert’s class he’s also no slouch either. I doubt very seriously that the Yankees would ask someone they are committed to for what would be 5 more years at about $22M per to DH. When you consider that in probably 3 years, 4 at the outside ARod will be doing most of the DH’ing for the Yankees.
    As for the Sox, what are they going to do with Gonzalez. They will be just resigning him sometime during this up coming to a season to what I’m pretty sure is a “gentlemens” agreement 7 year $150M + contract. Are they going to sign him to a $20M+ per year contract and thurn around and ask him to DH? OR ask him to move to a position he has NEVER played?
    So again why or how would either the Yankees or the Red Sox fit Albert into their roster. I think it’s far more likely that if Pujols does hit FA that one of the larger market NL teams make a push for him, like the Cubs or maybe even the AL Angels. Just a thought.

    • professorperry - Jan 16, 2011 at 9:28 PM

      There’s no question the Cubs would go insane to take Pujols from the rival.

    • mtner77 - Jan 17, 2011 at 1:22 AM

      I rarely agree with ANYTHING a Yankee’s fan says. It is a rule with me (right or wrong).

      That being said, ufy is obviously the most well spoken, and one of the smartest Yankee’s fans. And he makes great points. Who and the heck can afford to pay $275M? For a DH??

      Despite what Mr. Silva says, Mr. Pujols’ represestives may be “pricing him out of the game”.

      Look at the three BIG teams in MLB. Those who could afford to pay such a contract. ALL have 1B locked up for years to come (at a HUGE price). There is no chance a team will pay nearly $30M/year for a DH. NOT EVEN THE YANKEE’S! Not Boston. And last I checked, Philly doesn’t have a DH and are still trying to figure out how to pay Cliff Lee. Where does Pujols think that he is going to go? The Cubs? Angels? Possible, I guess, but I doubt it for that kind of money. (The LAA’s are going to sign a $30M/year DH? For 9 or 10 YEARS! Not going to happen).

      In my (very) humble opinion, Pujols has nearly nowhere else to go, execpt the Cards. His Doc like “ultimatum” of “sign me by ST or else” rings a little hollow. If St.L. does not sign him, where does he go? The only teams that can afford him are already stocked. Sure, EVERY team would love to have Albert. But almost zero can afford to pay that kind of contract.

      I think Pujols’ best option is to stay exactly where he is at. He will obviously get “paid”. But I hope that the Card’s are smart enough not bid against themselves (agian).

      Again, just one fan’s opinion.

      • Alex K - Jan 17, 2011 at 8:48 AM

        The Cubs have plenty of money. I think he’ll stay in STL as well, but don’t write the Cubs off because of money.

    • uyf1950 - Jan 17, 2011 at 5:45 AM

      Having stated my position above. I have no doubt the Pujols will stay with the Cardinals. I believe he will sign a 8 yr. contract for between $220M and $228 ($27.5 to $28.5 M per) and the Cardinals will spin it as will Albert as one gave and the other got the “hometown discount”. Pretty much in agreement with you on your numbers Mr. Silva.

      • Drew Silva - Jan 17, 2011 at 9:57 AM

        Wooo.

      • uyf1950 - Jan 17, 2011 at 10:06 AM

        Drew – hope you didn’t spend to much time thinking about what you were going to say in your reply.

      • Drew Silva - Jan 17, 2011 at 10:16 AM

        Haha. I think you’re right about the contract, and that the Cards will spin it as a “hometown discount.”

      • uyf1950 - Jan 17, 2011 at 10:31 AM

        Drew – Thank you for clarifying that.

      • Drew Silva - Jan 17, 2011 at 10:38 AM

        Fo sho.

      • Jonny 5 - Jan 17, 2011 at 2:57 PM

        I think this whole “sir Albert deal” is depressing Drew. He has yet to answer my question in regards to a possible trade to make way for the huge deal Albert gets, and the enthusiasm is non existant here too. C’mon Drew one of the Minions requests your opinion. As a dark overloard of blogging you owe me this much. Lol…

      • uyf1950 - Jan 17, 2011 at 3:01 PM

        Jonny 5 – Good luck with that.

      • Jonny 5 - Jan 17, 2011 at 3:26 PM

        yeah, I probably made one too many “poopy pants” references huh?

      • uyf1950 - Jan 17, 2011 at 3:29 PM

        Probably.

      • Drew Silva - Jan 17, 2011 at 4:16 PM

        Ha, didn’t mean to sound unenthusiastic. I just can’t get a good read on what’s happening and I don’t know which high salary guys would make sense to ship out. They’re not gonna trade Carpenter before the “extension deadline.” Wainwright’s deal is too team-friendly and I think you have to let it run out before you re-negotiate. Holliday’s deal is too fresh.

        I don’t think it’s an option. I think they’ll just have to be more cost-conscious moving forward.

      • uyf1950 - Jan 17, 2011 at 4:45 PM

        I don’t think Wainwright goes anywhere in the foreseeable future. Carpenter I’m not so sure about. Carpenter could be made available at the trade deadline depending on how the Cardinals season is going. If ultimately they are going to trade him he will probably be worth more to them as a chip at the trade deadline when a potential trading partner would have his services for a year and a half. Then them potentially exercising their option and then trying to move him during the 2012 preseason or during that season. Just my opinion and thinking out loud.

  3. nittanylion0 - Jan 16, 2011 at 6:30 PM

    The Cubs and the Mets would love to have Albert. He is destined for free agency.

  4. elmaquino - Jan 16, 2011 at 7:07 PM

    All this is mute, since he’s signing very soon. just sayin. http://bit.ly/if5EHE

    • elmaquino - Jan 16, 2011 at 7:08 PM

      moot, not mute

    • shawon0meter - Jan 16, 2011 at 9:19 PM

      @elmaquino Hate to get off track but are you the one who wrote the article on the Cubs-Card rivalry being overplayed? If so, I just wanted to say I liked the article and totally agree.

      • elmaquino - Jan 16, 2011 at 10:34 PM

        Yes sir, I did. Thank you!

  5. shawon0meter - Jan 16, 2011 at 7:12 PM

    Unless Carlos Pena has a remarkable season and gets an extension, I’m confident that either Pujols or Fielder make it to the Cubs next season with all the cash they have opening up.

    It’s absolutely in the Cards best interest to sign Pujols in the next month or there’s no way he’s back there in 2012.

  6. crankyfrankie - Jan 17, 2011 at 12:17 AM

    Astonishing that the Cardinals have treated the , arguably, best player in the game. The idea that the money teams,Soxs and Yanks, will not be interested is just foolish. Any team that can afford Pujols will try to sign him if he reaches free agency. Also the circus that will surround them if he is not signed going into the season will hurt the Cards.

  7. uyf1950 - Jan 17, 2011 at 8:33 AM

    Does anyone think the Washington Nationals will make a play for Pujols? I know the chances of him hitting the FA are slim, very slim but there is that outside possibility. I realize the Nationals just signed LaRoche but that was only for 2 years and they certainly can move/trade LaRoche if need be to make room for Pujols. And the Nationals have money. It certainly would make them contenders in the NL for the wild card come 2012 with Werth, Zimmerman, Strasburg (coming back by then), maybe even Harper will be up then. Add Pujols to the mix and it might be interesting. I’m not saying that he would go there, but it could be a negotiating ploy. Just thinking out loud.

  8. jgeorge2011 - Jan 17, 2011 at 10:10 AM

    If anyone in all of sports deserves a monstrous payday, it’s this guy. 100% class act. I think the Cards will show him the money or give him the ability to further bring talent to get another Ring. I don’t think Albert is all about the money, as he probably has enough already, but that money can’t buy another ring. No matter what happens, I’ll be a Pujols fan for life.

  9. paperlions - Jan 17, 2011 at 11:06 AM

    I know they won’t do it, because Cardinal ownership has made it clear that they are more concerned with profit than they are with competing (though being competitive is a close second, it is still secondary)….but I still think the best strategy from an organizational standpoint is to approach the “negotiation” as a partnership. The Cardinals will make more money with Pujols than without him (let’s face it, their farm system is a long way from helping at the MLB level and they have made it clear that they are not going to have a budget that includes a lot of high-priced FAs)…so if DeWitt want’s to continue to make money on the team, he better find a way to sign Pujols. One would thing he’s understand that losing Pujols will plunge the team into mediocrity, and in this economy….people won’t pay to go see a loser….and they most certainly will be a loser if Pujols leaves…they’ll be left with 2 legitimate offensive threats, a decent rotation, and nothing else…with no grade A position prospects anywhere in the system.
    .
    Anyway, given this scenario and Pujols’ stated desire to win and his ties to the mid-west, one would hope that he would be open to a deal that will allow the team to compete while still being paid very well. If not, the Cardinals need to bite the bullet and sign him anyway….and maybe DeWitt will just have to get used to the idea of the Cardinals making him less money. His other option is losing money…which is a near certainty if they go into 2012 with Holliday, Rasmus, Wainwright, Garcia, and 21 scraptastic veterans.

    • paperlions - Jan 17, 2011 at 11:09 AM

      grrrrrrr…seriously, what would be so wrong about having an edit button?
      .
      That should have been “One would think he’d understand that….”

  10. thejokewriter - Jan 17, 2011 at 11:44 AM

    With the huge and largely un-tapped Hispanic market Chicago has, all I can say about Pujols is…larga vida a los Cubbies.

    I really think we have a shot this year!

    • spudchukar - Jan 17, 2011 at 1:26 PM

      Your moniker is telling.

  11. spudchukar - Jan 17, 2011 at 2:07 PM

    For the most part Drew, your analysis is spot on. However, I believe you have been a little generous to Dewitt & Co. and maybe even a little hesitant to criticize Pujols. First lets examine things from Pujols perspective. No one can argue that he deserves to be the highest paid player in the game. Like everyone else I am speculating on the negotiations, but 28 mil seems to be a target, one that would exceed A-rod’s deal. Perhaps Pujols views Dewitt as a greedy, cheap-assed stereotypical owner, who is hiding his real profits while trying to shame Pujols into lower numbers. And maybe Pujols and his agent see through this. But if Pujols #1 desire is to win, then he too may have to bend. As many have mentioned the Cardinals’ payroll will increase in the next few years with extensions to Wainwright, Carpenter, Molina et al in the offing. But that will level out. So if the Cardinal brass, is truly intent on winning they need to come to the realization that the 150 mil ceiling is rapidly approaching. The answer is to defer the Pujols payments, substantially.
    I am not willing to accept Dewitt’s current ceiling. As you outlined in detail, the income and assets of Cardinal ownership do not coincide with their pay structure. What Cardinal fans have the right to demand is a comparable attendance/income/payment arrangement. I have yet to visit the new park, Central Idaho is a long ways away from Ol’ St. Lou, but as of last reporting the “baseball city” that was promised to the fans in exchange for the partial financing of the new stadium is semi-permanently on hold. Dewitt can make all the money he wants, but that should come after he meets the fans, players, and city half way. The “running like a business” excuse is hollow. Few investments pay off as handsomely as baseball ownership, and to date none have ever failed anywhere, regardless of the product management offers. So the risk is minimal. If Dewitt is the hard-nosed businessman he seems to suggest, he should understand markets deviate, and costs can spiral, but product endorsement suffers greatly if your product does not measure up. Dewitt needs to adapt. His excuses are stodgy, staid, and stagnant. The insinuation that paying Pujols what he deserves, will result in an inferior team due to future salary dumping, is insulting. As owner, Mr. Dewitt you expect your players to compete at the highest level, as fans we expect you to do the same.

    • Drew Silva - Jan 17, 2011 at 4:24 PM

      Without actually knowing the exact financials, I can’t call the DeWitts greedy. I suspect that they can handle a $150 million payroll and still make a great income, but I don’t know that for sure.

      We’ll just have to see. If the terms can be brought into a reasonable range (like seven years and $196 million) and DeWitt doesn’t pull the trigger, then I think the “owners are greedy” talk is fair. For now, I just don’t know…

      • spudchukar - Jan 17, 2011 at 4:57 PM

        Fair enough.

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