Is The Sky Falling Or Is Pujols Just Getting Taller?

The Albert Pujols contract negotiations have been discussed over and over and over again these past few months, and you’d think we’d have heard just about every scenario and perspective imaginable. Yet instead, we keep hearing the same discussion repeatedly. Here are a few different angles for you to digest as the countdown to Pujols’ spring training dwindles.

The Reason for Pujols Deadline

What we’ve heard – “Albert doesn’t want any distractions during the season, so he won’t discuss his contract once he arrives for spring training.

Alternate Perspective – Pujols imposed this deadline because he wants to become a free agent, and doesn’t want to have media members constantly badgering him with contract questions from February 16th through October. It’s as if he’s already made up his mind that he’s going to test the free agency waters, and this was the least stressful way for him to personally go about achieving that goal.

Does Albert Want to Stay in St. Louis?

What we’ve heard – “Albert has long said he wants to be a Cardinals for life.”

Alternate Perspective – While Pujols has said that, what he’s been saying since about mid-2008 on is “I want to play for a team that shows it will be a constant contender.” Sound familiar? That’s because it’s the same thing LeBron James said in the final seasons of his contract with the Cavaliers. That’s why Cleveland went out and got Shaq, and that’s one of the reasons the Cardinals got Matt Holliday. But really, I view the statement as an easy out for Pujols. Saying “I want to play for a winner” instead of “I want to play for the Cardinals” was his not-so-subtle way of opening the door to the possibility of him leaving.

What Teams are in the Running?

What we’ve heard – “The Yankees, Red Sox, and Cubs are the most likely places Pujols could end up because they’ve got the money to do it.”

Alternate Perspective – I’ll again draw a comparison with LeBron James since he was the most recent mega-star to jump ship from his original team. Think back to who his “suitors” were. Most people though he’d go to the Knick, Nets, or Dallas, Orlando, or perhaps he’d remain with Cleveland. He eventually ended up in Miami, though most experts didn’t have the Heat on their radar until the last couple of weeks of negotiations. So the question to ask is: “In the Pujols sweepstakes, who are the Heat?” My dark horse is Cincinnati. They have built a core of young players, and former Cardinals GM Walt Jocketty has built a legitimate contender there. Don’t be surprised to see a mini-reunion between Pujols, Jocketty, Scott Rolen, and a few other former Red Birds.

The 10 Year Deal

What We’ve heard – “The Cardinals can’t afford to give Pujols a 10 year deal, he won’t be worth 30 million dollars during the last 3 years of his contract. It would be one thing if we were in the American League and he could be the designated hitter, but he’ll be useless to the Cardinals by then.”

Alternate Perspective – To jump out of order, I’ll just get the DH argument out of the way. First base is arguable the least strenuous (dare I say easiest) of all the positions on the diamond. Very few long throws, not as much range required as say a middle infielder or outfielder, not hard on the body like a catcher. It’s first base, people! He can play first base until his 40, I really don’t understand why everyone’s been getting all bent out of shape about this issue. Now, will he be worth $30 million dollars when he’s 40? To any other team he could potentially sign with, no. But to the Cardinals, absolutely. Think about all the revenue Pujols will generate for the team. Not only will he have career milestones like 3,000 hits and 500, 600, and maybe 700 career home runs, but he’ll bring in crazy amounts of cash well after he’s retired. Bobble head days and jersey sales could go on for decades; just look at all the Stan Musial jerseys you see around Busch Stadium (and Stan also had a bobble head doll within the past couple of years despite being nearly 5 decades removed from his playing career). So no matter what Pujols makes the next 10 years, it’s a worthwhile investment for the Cardinals. For those of you still hung up on the “he’s not going to be worth $30 million when he’s 38-40 years old” argument, just think of it as buying 7 years for $42 million apiece, and getting 3 years free.

Only time will tell to see how the Pujols’ saga plays out. I’d be utterly stunned if he signed with any team, Cardinals included, before at least mid-November. I have a feeling he’s going to feel out all his options, and he’s earned that right. Selfishly, I hope he remains a Cardinal. Realistically, it’s getting to the point where I’d be surprised if he actually stayed. Hopefully we don’t see a repeat of “The Decision” at any point along the way.

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