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Could the Cardinals survive without Albert Pujols?

Jan 27, 2011, 8:33 AM EDT

Albert Pujols

Jeff Gordon of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch thinks so:

The St. Louis Cardinals ranked among Major League Baseball’s most successful franchises before Albert Pujols arrived.

And the Cardinals will remain prosperous long after the Pujols Era finally ends, however it ends.

Baseball is bigger than one player around here. It always has been, it always will be – despite perceptions outside the market … The franchise has locked in other star players, like former batting champ Matt Holliday, former Cy Young Award winner Chris Carpenter and former World Series hero Adam Wainwright. Given their durable fan support, the Cards would be able to redistribute the money Albert rejects to other high-end players.

Life would go on.  St. Louis isn’t Cleveland. The Cardinals aren’t the Cavaliers. And Albert Pujols isn’t LeBron James.

On a very basic level he’s correct. But on a very basic level I would survive without Internet access, beer, television, books and steak.  If you reduce any question to “can we survive without it,” the only must-haves are food, water and shelter. And maybe Internet access.

The question facing John Mozeliak isn’t about the Cardinals’ survival. It’s about taking the best course given the options currently at their disposal. The costs and benefits of letting Pujols go versus the costs and benefits of keeping him.  And I don’t know how one can conclude that the Cardinals letting Pujols go would benefit the team. At all.  Maybe it would be different if the Cards were a struggling organization, but they are quite clearly not.

Albert Pujols is the best player in baseball. While the Cardinals have one of the richest histories in all of baseball, they have never lost a player of his caliber. They shouldn’t start testing the fanbase by doing so now.

 

  1. dodger88 - Jan 27, 2011 at 8:47 AM

    If they can keep Pujols and still afford to add the necessary pieces over the coming years to be competitive then it is a no brainer. What the Cards shouldn’t do is pay too much in terms of dollars and years in order to have the best player and face of the franchise on team that struggles to play .500 ball.

    • evanhartford - Jan 27, 2011 at 1:01 PM

      There may be only a handful of players this century that produce like Pujols. Could the Cardinals survive without him? Yes. Should they ever part with him? Absolutely not.

  2. proudlycanadian - Jan 27, 2011 at 8:57 AM

    “Survive” is such a loaded term. How old is Pujols? How long can he be expected to perform at a peak rate of production. Eventually, regardless of who he plays for, he will be washed up, and the team he plays for will still exist. The Cardinals should be very careful when it comes to length of contract. As a Jays fan, I am well aware that shortly after Wells signed his long term contract, he suffered injuries during 2 seasons.

  3. lampdwellr - Jan 27, 2011 at 8:59 AM

    I think I may have just gotten history-baited. Pujols is obviously legendarily, insanely good at baseball. However, I think you *could* argue that when Rogers Hornsby left over contract issues between 1926 and 1927, they were losing a player of Pujols’ caliber. Hornsby was coming off a down year, but in 1927 for the Giants and 1928 for the Braves he was back to being MVP-quality. The Cards traded Rajah for Frankie Frisch, who had an insane 1927 himself before dropping back to mere all-star levels.

  4. phlockar - Jan 27, 2011 at 9:04 AM

    I’m a Reds fan, so this for what’s it worth.

    It’s a double edged sword in my most humble opinion. He’s possibly the greatest right handed hitter of all-time, so Pujols NOT in the NL Central is fine with me. The Cards, as stated, would have all that money to not only lock up players they have already (Wainwright, Carpenter & Garcia), but bring in some quality free agents as well if he were to leave. Of course you wouldn’t have Pujols hitting third or playing gold glove defense at first.

    On the other hand, if he stays, 100 million dollars of a traditionally 95-100 million dollar payroll is front loaded to 7 players on the roster for 2012. That’s of course if Pujols gets 30 million a year which we all know he will. 7 players making what usually is your entire team’s payroll. That’s one year but it would be similar throughout his contract years unless he defers 50 million dollars until he’s 50. Not happening.

    My point is he’s going to make so much money that either the Cards let him walk or he’s gonna rape their payroll. One way or another, that’s fine with me as a Reds fan.

    • uyf1950 - Jan 27, 2011 at 9:48 AM

      Carpenter will be 37 years old after the 2011 season. The chance of the Cardinals wanting to “lock up” Carpenter are pretty slim. He does have a team option for 2012 that if the Cardinals do NOT sign Pujols they will probably exercise the option. If the Cardinals do sign Pujols they will probably not exercise Carpenter’s option. In fact if they sign Pujols they will probably trade Carpenter by the trade deadline to get something for him prior to letting him walk before the 2012 season and to save some payroll. Just my opinion.

  5. Ari Collins - Jan 27, 2011 at 9:09 AM

    No.

    That roster really is stars and scrubs. It’s really hard to replace an 8-win player; it’s hard to find even consistent 4-win players on the FA market.

    Having Pujols has allowed the Cards to stay competitive with a roster chock full of holes. They are not ready for him to leave.

    • technomatt1 - Jan 27, 2011 at 12:50 PM

      The problem is that he will not in almost any likelihood remain an 8-win player throughout the duration of his contract. The question is which of his Bill James comparables does he perform like for the next 8-10 years… Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson, or Ken Griffey Jr. There is definite value if he turns in to an Aaron, but with Robinson and definitely with Griffey, the team that pays will not get baseball value out of the contract. You can really see a big risk in years 9 & 10 of a deal (looking at all three of their WAR for their respective age 40 & 41 seasons).

      I agree that they are not ready for him to leave – but will the stadium stay full in 2016-potentially 2021 if Pujols is not performing, and hampering the Cardinals from doing anything major payroll-wise?

  6. Jonny 5 - Jan 27, 2011 at 9:29 AM

    They’ll Keep Pujols, But I think they’ll trade away somebody else, or two somebody elses.

  7. uyf1950 - Jan 27, 2011 at 9:49 AM

    I’ve said it before Pujols isn’t going anywhere. The Cardinals resign him for 8 years for between $28 to $30M per. Take it to the bank.

  8. ss - Jan 27, 2011 at 9:54 AM

    I think that should be “somebodies else”, like attorneys general.

    But, yes, the Cardinals need Pujols. He’s just so much better than everyone else and has shown no signs of slowing down.

    • cintiphil - Jan 27, 2011 at 10:52 AM

      I agree with you on his ability, but he does show signs of slowing down. That is what I think the Birds are worried about. It is good to watch this from Cinti., as we would like to see him leave the division. He kills us all the time. But, with the nagging injuries he has he seems to struggle later in the season, and the injuries (back-elbow) do not seem to heal, ever.

      Whatever the outcome of the negotiations are, I am glad it is upsetting to our no. 1 competitor.

      • Adam - Jan 27, 2011 at 11:15 AM

        Oh, if only FACTS backed up your assertion.

        For his career:
        April: 328/440/650 OPS: 1090
        May: 322/412/599 OPS: 1011
        June: 330/425/624 OPS: 1069
        July: 324/410/596 OPS: 1006
        Aug: 345/428/670 OPS: 1098
        Sep: 341/442/617 OPS: 1059

        Those DO NOT look like numbers of someone who fades down the stretch. They look like the most consistent man on the face of the planet. There’s a reason he’s sometimes referred to as a machine.

  9. BC - Jan 27, 2011 at 10:19 AM

    They’ll crater if they lose Pujols. Give him the big bucks, and then work on rebuilding the pitching staff for the future.

  10. Mr. Jason "El Bravo" Heyward - Jan 27, 2011 at 10:32 AM

    Having best player in baseball on your team = $$

  11. Elwood Larf - Jan 27, 2011 at 10:51 AM

    The money it will cost to sign Albert Pujols to a long-term contract could pay for several all-star level players at various positions who can contribute. That’s to say nothing of the fact that Pujols, like ARod, is almost certain to be well past his prime long before the contract runs out. Can St. Louis win if Pujols is the highest-paid player in baseball but only putting up the kind of numbers ARod did last year, or would it be better to take that money and spend it on an outifielder, a shortstop, one starter and two good relievers?

    • cintiphil - Jan 27, 2011 at 10:55 AM

      That is good logic, but remember, you can not always BUY great talent. If you are talking about buying star power, then it will not come cheap, so why not just pay the guy you have?

    • Adam - Jan 27, 2011 at 11:18 AM

      You’re assuming a lot of things. Like the fact that you can GET several all-star level players at various positions.

      Have you seen the price that All-Star players on the open market are getting? Werth got 18, Crawford got 20. Those two combined are going to make more than Pujols will, regardless of where he ends up. So you can get one, MAYBE two good players for the money Pujols will get. And they’re nowhere near the player Pujols is.

      The assertion that you can get an OF, SS, SP and 2 RP for 30 million and have them all be really good is laughable.

      • uyf1950 - Jan 27, 2011 at 11:25 AM

        Adam – you beat me to it by a few minutes. You are absolutely correct.

    • uyf1950 - Jan 27, 2011 at 11:24 AM

      Elwood – If if the Cardinals pay or offer Pujols $30M per. I don’t know if you’ve noticed lately but $30M isn’t going to buy a team and outfielder, a SS , a starter and 2 good relievers. Five players an average of $6M per ain’t gonna happen in this day and age. They would be lucky to get 3 decent players players for that money. Just my opinion.

  12. loungefly74 - Jan 27, 2011 at 11:10 AM

    The Cards have to keep him. The guy is a living legend. He is too big of bat to lose. They can trim the fat at other spots. I would love to have him on my team.

    • BC - Jan 27, 2011 at 11:12 AM

      Agree. I love me some Ike Davis, but c’mon… I’d trade our entire infield and $20mil in cash for him.

      • uyf1950 - Jan 27, 2011 at 11:17 AM

        BC – The problem is would Pujols go to the Mets. He’s a 10/5 guy he can veto any trade. Unfortunately for Met fans I doubt the Mets are high up on list of teams he would like to play for.

      • technomatt1 - Jan 27, 2011 at 12:59 PM

        The Cardinals will not trade Pujols. Even if it is likely he will not resign with the club, they’ll put the word out that this is the last year you’ll see him, the stadium will be full every night, and they’ll take big chances to try to compete this year.

        Now, once he hits FA, I think the following teams will be lining up with Brinks trucks: Cardinals, Mets, the “new” Miami Marlins, Cubs, Royals, and Blue Jays. With all the payroll falling off the books for the Mets/Royals/Blue Jays, they’ll all want to be a part of the process, even if they eventually are shut out or take other options.

      • ta192 - Jan 27, 2011 at 4:55 PM

        ?????????????Marlins??????????????Really?????????????

      • technomatt1 - Jan 27, 2011 at 5:38 PM

        Yep, really. The Miami Marlins will be in the midst of giant re-branding, plus they’ll be opening up their shiny new stadium. If they want to compete in the east and try to fill out their new air conditioned facility, then they’ll need another big gun, and judging from the KLaw’s recent ranking of their farm system (29th/30), that guy is probably not in their system. In addition, Pujols’ Dominican roots will serve as a good marketing tool to the Hispanic community. A little stretch, for sure, but when you look at teams that can potentially sign such a large contract, you have to look at teams that have the highest potential ceilings for growth as a franchise (mostly from increased gate/TV revenue).

  13. spudchukar - Jan 27, 2011 at 11:51 AM

    Maybe a bigger issue is, Are the Cardinals Cheap? They are top five in attendance, top five in merchandise revenue, and were purchased for around 150 mil, and then abruptly sold parking rights for 90 mil or so. Today they are worth well over 500 mil and their owner is a billionaire. Perhaps Holiday is overpaid, but no one else is. Obviously, team ownership appreciates at a rapid pace. Shouldn’t payroll reflect that appreciation? Aren’t owners obligated to pay just reward for their stars? Isn’t there enough cash to elevate the payroll to the 120-130 mil range and still pocket some considerable change?

    • Jonny 5 - Jan 27, 2011 at 12:25 PM

      “Obviously, team ownership appreciates at a rapid pace. Shouldn’t payroll reflect that appreciation? Aren’t owners obligated to pay just reward for their stars? Isn’t there enough cash to elevate the payroll to the 120-130 mil range and still pocket some considerable change?”

      Maybe. No. And yes.

      • spudchukar - Jan 27, 2011 at 12:31 PM

        Any successful owner, in any business, who fails to pay their quality help the going wage, will certainly lose most of their employees to those who are willing to do so. It is their obligation. It is also good business sense.

  14. bigbbfan - Jan 27, 2011 at 4:07 PM

    As to whether or not he “has to remain a Cardinal” I pose two questions. When was the last time the Card’s were in the WS with him and the last playoff they were in what did he hit and how many runs did he drive in? OK, a third point, they managed to play lousy baseball the last half of 2010 with him in the lineup.

    I am not questioning his greatness, just pointing out the they ain’t done nothing with him lately.

  15. cintiphil - Jan 27, 2011 at 5:43 PM

    technomatt1 – Jan 27, 2011 at 12:59 PM

    The Cardinals will not trade Pujols. Even if it is likely he will not resign with the club, they’ll put the word out that this is the last year you’ll see him, the stadium will be full every night, and they’ll take big chances to try to compete this year.

    Now, once he hits FA, I think the following teams will be lining up with Brinks trucks: Cardinals, Mets, the “new” Miami Marlins, Cubs, Royals, and Blue Jays. With all the payroll falling off the books for the Mets/Royals/Blue Jays, they’ll all want to be a part of the process, even if they eventually are shut out or take other options.

    Do you really think the Royals have 30 mil for 10 years to give to any player? Come on man, their best pitcher in a decade refused to sign with them. I don’t know about the Jays, but the Mets do have it, but Albert probably will not play there. If he doesn’t sign with the Birds, then it is San Fran., LA, NYY, or maybe Beantown. I think even the Phillys have gone over the max now.

    • technomatt1 - Jan 28, 2011 at 1:34 PM

      The Royals will very likely have the most available payroll come 2012. The have talked about an affinity to sign players that live in Kansas City’s footprint, Pujols grew up, played HS and his one year of college ball, and currently lives in Kansas City. In addition (going with the high upside/most to gain argument), with the footprint of KC and his current STL Cardinals so close together, you could see some of the state of Missouri become more interested in the franchise, meaning bigger TV dollars and more stadium attendance (revenue). I could easily see how (assuming no injury!) in the first 4-6 years of the contract he could easily be worth $10 million per year in just gate receipts alone (season ticket sales). If you can budget that money toward his contract, you can see how affordable his contract becomes.

      That doesn’t even speak to the fact that KC’s farm system could allow them to field extremely cheap teams that were capable of competing, which is the problem Pujols will have in going to many other markets short of BOS and NYY. KC is aiming toward being competitive and playoff-bound in 12/13/14/15, so the timing fits as well.

      On SF – I just looked at the numbers on Cots and you may be right, they may be a player. They’ll have two more years of Lincecum arb raises to contend with, so I don’t like their chances, but they certainly may be interested with all the money coming off the books (Tejada, Ross, DeRosa, Sanchez, Lopez, Burrell). However, the Giants still have to field a team, so they’d have to make a decision that putting everything in to one player was worth it (which will be hard with the Zito contract still fresh), versus shoring up most of the diamond.

      LA – I assume you mean the Dodgers. If the divorce thing is somehow settled, then they will be in. But I don’t think that will be the case. LAA – I thought this was definitely an option until the Vernon Wells trade. In some ways, I think the team was buying high-priced insurance against having to sign Pujols to a much longer contract next year by making that deal. NYY and BOS – There’s no fit. Both have long term 1Bs. They were probably smartly went out and got guys that will cost less than Pujols, but have a chance at exceeding his value in the coming years. Both fanbases would’ve demanded Pujols and whatever deal it took if they had not signed Teixeira and Gonzalez.

  16. cintiphil - Jan 27, 2011 at 5:54 PM

    Adam – Jan 27, 2011 at 11:15 AM

    Oh, if only FACTS backed up your assertion.

    For his career:
    April: 328/440/650 OPS: 1090
    May: 322/412/599 OPS: 1011
    June: 330/425/624 OPS: 1069
    July: 324/410/596 OPS: 1006
    Aug: 345/428/670 OPS: 1098
    Sep: 341/442/617 OPS: 1059

    Those DO NOT look like numbers of someone who fades down the stretch. They look like the most consistent man on the face of the planet. There’s a reason he’s sometimes referred to as a machine.

    Adam think about this:

    I think you took his total career numbers to mediate the last year or two. I agree that for 6 or 7 years, he was amazing. Look at production for the past two. Also, I Know that his BA is great, but when you compare it to total RBI’s is it not as spectacular as the raw numbers indicate. I.E. The great baby bull (Orlando Cepeda) hit at about a .280 career average, however reached 120-160 RBI’s almost every year. That is a hard hitting .280. With Albert hitting at .340 or so, he should be averaging 130-150 RBI’s.I don’t think he is poor, but now what one might expect with all of his other numbers so high. Just consider that. Oh yes, he does hit at least .750 of the Reds it seems, and drives in everyone.

    • spudchukar - Jan 27, 2011 at 6:40 PM

      Many of Albert’s RBI opportunities are nixed by the intentional BB.

    • Adam - Jan 27, 2011 at 11:18 PM

      Ok, let’s look at your argument and refute it with FACTS again.

      2010:
      April: 345/430/655 OPS 1085
      May: 291/431/505 OPS: 936
      June: 298/402/543 OPS: 944
      July: 267/333/515 OPS: 848
      Aug: 379/453/777 OPS: 1230
      Sep: 312/445/624 OPS: 1069

      2009:
      April: 337/457/675 OPS: 1132
      May: 341/477/682 OPS: 1160
      June: 320/427/856 OPS: 1283
      July: 289/415/485 OPS: 900
      Aug: 319/443/649 OPS: 1092
      Sep: 375/452/656 OPS: 1108

      As for the Cepeda/Pujols comparison, let’s look at it.

      Per 162 games (according to Baseball Reference), Cepeda hit 297/350/499 (849) with 29 home runs, 104 RBI, 11 SB, 6 CS, 45 BB and 89 K.

      Pujols has averaged 331/426/624 (1050) with 42 home runs, 128 RBI, 8 SB, 4 CS, 95 BB and 67 K.

      And your memory of Cepeda is awful. He had ONE year in which he had more than 115 RBI. Pujols worst year (2007) he had 103 RBI, which would have been Cepeda’s 6th BEST year. After that, Pujols 2nd worst year would have been Cepeda’s 2nd best year of his career.

      Care to try again?

  17. pata4016 - Jan 27, 2011 at 6:11 PM

    He’s worth stop arguing with someone who holds the “Cards”

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