The economy is still reeling, fuel prices continue to rise, the housing market is in the tank, and there is still no progress on instilling a playoff in college football. But fret not; there are greater problems in the world.
You could be Albert Pujols.
Sure, the All-Star First Baseman from St. Louis is coming off a season in which he had the lowest batting average of his 10-year Major League career, but when that number is still a robust .312, that’s the least of your worries. Rather, Pujols has a bigger quandary to overcome in 2011: the decision of whether or not to extend his contract with St. Louis or enter the free agent market for the first time at the end of the season.
At 31-years-old and having exhibited a stellar track record of health, there is no doubt that Pujols likely has ten to twelve seasons left under his belt. His defensive prowess at first base, as evidenced by his two gold gloves at the position, also indicate that he isn’t likely going to need to DH anytime soon, if ever. The question really comes as to where he wants to spend that, with the only team he’s ever known or the highest bidder that’ll give him both the money he needs and the shot at another championship.
All reports thus far have indicated that the Cardinals and Pujols are still working toward a long-term extension to keep Pujols for the remainder of his career. In fairness, most believe that Pujols wants to stay put, as the environment in St. Louis has helped him blossom into the best player of our generation and the management in place have done a decent job of making the Cardinals contenders year in and year out.
That said the Cardinals may have issues fitting Pujols into the money picture. They already went overboard to lock-up Matt Holliday to a 7-year, $120 million deal in order to provide Pujols with long-term protection in the line-up. However, St. Louis has always been, and may always be, a small market team, so they will likely need Pujols to accept concessions in terms of home town discounts and/or deferrals. Pujols may not be willing to hand out any more home town discounts after having basically accepted one when he signed his last contract, 8-years and $111 million, in 2004. That contract will see him make $16 million in its final year in 2011.
Instead, Pujols may choose to make St. Louis bid for his services like every other team out there. In today’s market, his new deal could pass that of Alex Rodriguez’s 10-year, $275 million pact with the Yankees signed in 2008. Not only has Pujols outperformed A-Rod during that time, tremendously at that, but he’s also done two things the Yankee star hasn’t; stayed healthy and kept his nose clean amid the steroid scandal.
Sure, Pujols will have to overcome the two largest bidders on the market, New York and Boston with Mark Texeira and Adrian Gonzalez respectively, having no immediate need for him in their line-ups. But let’s be honest, neither has shown much constraint in the past in making creative moves to plug the best available player into the line-up either.
That isn’t to say that there won’t be suitors. The Angels were awfully quiet this off-season and could feasibly be saving their money for a run at the bigger prize. Likewise, the Mets will have Carlos Beltran’s and Luis Castillo’s contracts coming off the books after this season and could make a run as well. Let’s be honest with ourselves, it doesn’t bode well for the competition to have to face an Albert Pujols motivated by a walk-year either.
In the end, it comes down to what Pujols wants. It may be best for Major League Baseball, and certainly the Cardinals, for Pujols to sign on to finishing his career with St. Louis, but in this day and age, there is still a price on loyalty, and the Cardinals will likely need to change their mantra in order to pay the piper.
– Albert Pujols, Baseball-Reference.com
– Albert Pujols Salary, Baseball-Reference.com
– Matt Holliday, Baseball-Reference.com
– Alex Rodriguez, Baseball-Reference.com
Also from this contributor:
– Red Sox Now Officially Mirror Yankee Model
– Top MLB Rookies to Watch in 2011