Albert Pujols and the St. Louis Cardinals are currently negotiating a contract extension that could end up being worth more money, in both total dollars and annual salary, than any single player deal in baseball history. If they don’t come to an agreement, Pujols, unquestionably the best player in the game, will become a free agent at the conclusion of this season.  And he’s only 31 years old.

If Pujols were a character in a baseball meets Dungeons & Dragons type of role playing game, he would max out every category.  His success in the batter’s box is one thing, but he’s also so squeaky clean and successful off the baseball field that it wouldn’t surprise me if Danny DeVito is actually his twin brother, and he was created in a laboratory by a collection of affluent baseball owners.

Let’s take a quick look at the trajectory his career is currently on:

Whenever a player remotely close to Pujols’ stature approaches availability on the free agent market, it’s expected that the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox will end up bidding for his services.  This time, however, the Yankees and Red Sox will be locked in with their respective first basemen, Mark Teixeira and Adrian Gonzalez.  Several baseball insiders have suggested that the Cardinals will be able to use this to their advantage in negotiating.

I don’t buy it.  As good as Teixeira and Gonzalez are, Pujols is much better.  And the Yankees and Red Sox go into every offseason with the sole purpose of getting better.

Assuming that the Yankees or Red Sox aren’t interested also overlooks the fact that New York will be using 39 year old Jorge Posada as their DH this coming season, while the Boston Red Sox go with the rapidly aging beyond his 35 years, David Ortiz.

You’re kidding yourself if you think that the two Evil Empires won’t be involved in bidding for his services if Pujols gets to free agency.

But just how much are we talking about?

If the Cardinals had worked toward negotiating a contract prior to this offseason, they likely would’ve managed to get Pujols at more of a discount, but after the unexpected spending spree that several teams went on after the Giants won the World Series, I think negotiations start at the biggest contract in baseball history: Alex Rodriguez’s 10 year $275 million deal signed ahead of the 2008 season.  A-Rod was 32 at the time, and both players have an eerily similar career trajectory.

But not only will Pujols be a year younger than Rodriguez was when he signed his massive deal, A-Rod has had his up and down years, relatively speaking of course, while Pujols has consistently hovered around eight wins above replacement each season.

Pujols is also currently the better player, and taking less in annual salary than an inferior player seems unlikely.  Or as Ken Rosenthal put it:

Seven years might not be long enough; Pujols probably will not want to be a free agent again at 38. Alex Rodriguez’s average salary of $27.5 million will not be high enough; Pujols is a significantly better player.

There’s even a possibility that Pujols becomes the first baseball player to be paid a dollar a second.  Think about it like this:

  • $1 x 60 seconds = $60 a minute
  • $60 x 60 minutes = $3600 per hour
  • $3600 x 24 hrs = $86,400 per day
  • $86400 x 365 days a year = $31,536,000.00 per year

The next question has to do with whether or not the St. Louis Cardinals can afford to pay Pujols the money he’ll be seeking.  As Drew Silva from NBC’s Hardball Talk explains, St. Louis represents a larger market than you may think.

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.

While that may be an optimistic answer to the question, it could also be rephrased to ask if the Cardinals can afford not to sign Pujols.

We’ve already gone over what makes Pujols such a valuable player and it should be noted that no one knows that better than the Cardinals.

Team Chairman Bill DeWitt:

Pujols is irreplaceable, both as a talent and as the face of the franchise. That’s all wrapped into one. He’s an iconic player because he’s such a great player. He’s proven year in and year out that he’s one of the greatest players to play the game. He’s never had a bad year and has lifetime totals that are incredible. You can’t go out and find an Albert Pujols.

In fact, finding an Albert Pujols could prove every bit as difficult as letting one go.

Comments (23)

  1. Dungeons and Dragons in the second paragraph? Followed by four line graphs and a series of equations?

    NERD ALERT

  2. Who are you kidding mike, all serious baseball fans are closet nerds (or out of it), Do you not follow the Twitter feeds of some of these guys?

    If you haven’t fantasized about Pujols coming to Toronto on a 8/240 deal, you aren’t a Blue Jays fan. I had a wet dream last night.

  3. If Pujols doesn’t sign an extension, next offseason is going to be absolutely nuts. Half the teams in baseball could be legitimately bidding for his services.

    As a Jays fan who’s been hearing that “the money will be there when we need it” for some time now, I can’t help but put two and two together and assume that this is exactly the kind of long-term impact player AA keeps saying Rogers would be willing to pony up for. Here’s hoping they at least get the chance to take a run at him.

  4. If Pujols hits the FA market and the Blue Jays aren’t the frontrunners for his services I will never believe another word this FO says.

  5. That’s a little bit silly. It’s not like the Jays are the only team who would want him… if he does become a free agent and the Jays do end up aggressively trying to sign him, they’re not going to be alone.

  6. Rogers is MLBs wealthiest owner. Pujols is the greatest RHB ever, perhaps the greatest hitter ever, and one of the top 10 players of all time. If there’s ANYBODY you spend money on, it’s him. If Beeston is going to come on the radio once a week and say the money is there for the right player and the right situation, I don’t understand how that’s NOT Albert Pujols.

  7. Right, I don’t think anybody would ever disagree with that, but even if the Jays offer him all the money he wants, they’re not going to be the only team that does so. A straight bidding war can only go so far until the money’s pretty much equal and it comes down to personal preference. Being the best baseball player of your generation gives you a shit-tonne of leverage.

  8. Well, that’s why they should be the frontrunners for his services – they should be offering him the most money. If he wants to sign somewhere for less, that’s fine (and expected), but Rogers better be heavily involved in the sweepstakes.

  9. I have to agree completely that you cannot rule out the Yankees and Red Sox. Teixeira could easily be a DH or even maybe OF? It may also explain their lack of spending this winter – not like there is a lot of great starting pitchers they can spend on next offseason.

    As for Pujols coming to the Jays if he is a free agent. There is absolutely no chance of that happening. When they say the money will be there – they mean when the Jays start winning more games and drawing more fans. And in terms of money, if other teams can match it or come close, why would Pujols come to Toronto. He has made the playoffs a few times with St. Louis, even winning a World Series. I don’t see him signing with anyone but a contender.

  10. If he became available, I’d have to imagine the Jays being in the mix. That said… the Cards can’t really let it get that far, can they?

  11. The Cards would be crazy to let it get that far. Even if he’s looking for market value in a potential extension, you’d have to think they would want to lock him up now while they’re the only ones with the opportunity to do so, rather than have to compete with everybody else.

  12. I don’t even want to imagine Pujols in a Jays uniform because as soon as he signs an insane extension with the Cardinals, it’ll just be that much more disappointing.

  13. Damn it Parkes, you take my good ideas and do a far better job than I would every time! I’ve had a similar article idea on the back-burner for a couple weeks now.

    Seriously though, great work. You’re bang on when it comes to the Yankees and Red Sox both having expendable options at DH and how that could mean potentially both teams would be interested.

    If they aren’t, however, that does add leverage for the Cardinals as there are only a few other teams (maybe the Mets, Orioles, Nationals, Angels, Cubs, and Dodgers) that could even dream of putting the kind of money forward that Pujols would get on the open market, and could have an opening.

    If history shows us anything, however, it’s that the Yankees and Red Sox will definitely discard anything to get one of the best players in the game. They were both very willing to go after A-Rod when he became available.

  14. And I don’t have any grand dreams of Pujols ever becoming a Jay. When Beeston says the money will be there, he means for impact free agents and extensions of impact players already on the team. AA has made it clear that he’s building this team from within.

    I don’t consider Pujols a just another big name free agent, I consider him a once-in-a-generation MEGA free agent. I can’t see Rogers committing $225-$300-million to one player EVER, regardless of the depth of their pockets.

  15. Travis – I agree with everything you’ve said. Anyone who thinks Pujols is coming to the Jays is not looking at it rationally. I’d love to have him on the team but here is the Jays payroll in millions the last ten years (2002-2011): $73, 50, 50, 45, 71, 81, 97, 79, 71, approx 80 mil in 2011. Anyone else see it increasing to $110 million in 2012 if the Jays signed Pujols at $30 million per season? That wouldn’t account for signing anyone else/arbitration/increases in player contracts. It’s just not gonna happen.

  16. Pujols in a Jays uniform probably won’t happen, but there’s no reason why it couldn’t happen. Even if it means keeping a guy like Pujols out of the Yankees and BoSox dirty mitts is worth something extra.

    In all likelihood, Pujols will remain a Cardinal. But man it would blow if he didn’t and went to somewhere else in the AL East and the Jays were left with unnatural 1B guys platooning forever.

  17. @JToronto – The Cardinals have never had a payroll over 100m and signing Pujols would mean they are spending over 55m on just 3 players – Pujols Holliday and Wainwright. Using your logic, Pujols staying in STL just isn’t going to happen.

    Of course, in reality, the 100m the Blue Jays spent in 2008 isn’t worth 100m today – there’s been inflation and the CDN dollar is stronger. And there’s no reason they couldn’t have been spending 120m the past few years, so frankly your point is moot.

    “I can’t see Rogers committing $225-$300-million to one player EVER, regardless of the depth of their pockets.”

    Why?

  18. First, would Pujols want to come to Toronto? Perhaps. But over Boston, New York, St. Louis or even Los Angeles? Very, very doubtful. They would likely have to match or go over whatever Boston or New York would pay and they are quite simply in a different league. Pujols has made no qualms about wanting as much money as he can get.

    I just don’t see Rogers committing that kind of money to one player and it flies in the face of everything they’ve ever done with this team. That and it flies in the face of everything AA has advocated for. It’s just not a deal the team traditionally makes. It’s a pip-dream to think it has any chance of happening.

    If it happens, I will gladly eat my shirt.

    I don’t necessarily think Pujols WILL resign in St. Louis. I think it’s about 50-50 at this point. That’s just my gut feeling.

  19. Travis, I think you’re misunderstanding what we’re all saying. I don’t think anyone is saying “Oh, when Pujols becomes a free agent, he should become a Jay and Rogers will offer him $50 million per, etc.” I think we’re saying Rogers should be in the discussion based on what they’ve been saying.

    It doesn’t fly in the face of what they’ve done. They’re building from within, with an eye on 2012, and adding pieces where necessary. Core from within (snider, morrow, romero, arencibia, lawrie, hechavaria)? Check, 2012 (Pujols FA year)? Check. Adding pieces where necessary? Well, Brett Wallace was supposed to be the 1B of the future, and they’re going with Adam Lind this year, so is there a need? Check. If there is any position where a need could be filled it is the corner base positions.

    That said, I don’t think any of us think Pujols WOULD sign in Toronto. Why would he? What does he know of the city? He’s an NL player, so he wouldn’t have visitied often. The only reason I could think of in Toronto’s favour, was if there was some Manny type love of Toronto because of the players he grew up following (Pujols like Manny is Dominican). OTherwise, sure other teams have better intangibles. Just think the Jays would be seriously in the conversation, at least to start.

  20. At $32 million in ’09 and ’10, Alex Rodriguez has already made $1 per second. He’ll be close with his $31 million salary this year. And that’s just salary.

  21. let’s face it if Pujols doesn’t sign one of two things will happen:

    1. Cardinals will trade him at the deadline and get huge returns–texeira? ryan howard? youkilis? (providing the team trading for him gets a long term commitment)

    2. Bidding war that pays him more than $35 mil a year–why wouldn’t this be the case, considering that 30 mill is the minimum expected to be offered from the cardinals–and that’s technically a good deal considering they have first dibs

    In free agency 30 mill/year will be the starting point, and as the price goes higher and higher the Yankees, Cubs, Red Sox and Mets will be the only ones left with those those types of deep pockets. My guess is the Cardinals sign him. But in free agency, get ready for an all out ludicrous war between the yankees and cubs that sees Pujols contract near the 40/year mark.

  22. Pujols said he will veto any trade.. Only way Toronto is mentioned for Pujols is if Lind struggles @ 1st base.

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