There are plenty of things running through my head about the injury to Albert Pujols, so let’s get right to it.
The timing of the injury literally could not have been better, and here’s why: Let’s say Pujols misses just 4 weeks with his forearm injury. That would make him due to return to the lineup July 18th. Counting Monday’s off day, the Cardinals have SEVEN days off between now and then (let’s give a big shout-out to the 4-day All-Star Break). So while he would miss 4 weeks of time, he’d only miss 3 weeks of actual games. Another thing that makes the timing perfect is Matt Holliday’s return to the lineup. He just got off the 15-Day Disabled List on Thursday. Can you imagine what the Cardinals offense would be like if their injuries had overlapped? The Bad News: The Cardinals play the Reds 6 times over the next 4 weeks, plus the Phillies and Rays. Those games could make for some tough sledding without Albert.
Most baseball scribes are optimistic about the Cardinals’ chances. Most everyone seems to believe that Lance Berkman will slide over to first base, opening up right field for Jon Jay. Considering Pujols has been hitting in the .270s basically all year, I agree that the overall job of replacing his bat in the lineup is easier now than in years past, but… Albert looked to have turned the corner with his back-to-back walk off homeruns against the Cubs. In that regard, it’s tough to see him go to the DL.
What does this do for his contract status? Look, no one knows what’s been going through Albert’s head over these past six months, but I think it’s safe to say that if he did turn down a $200+ million dollar contract in February as some media outlets have reported, then he’s kicking himself now for not taking it. It’s going to be hard for him to negotiate a $200-$300 million dollar 10-year deal at the end of this season if he winds up hitting .275 with, let’s say 30 HRs and 90 RBIs. Those would all be WAY off his career averages of .329/39/116. BUT…what about negotiating a new contract right now? Pujols has long said he won’t negotiate during the season because he doesn’t want it to be a distraction, but how distracting can it be if he’s not going to play for a month? If I’m Pujols’ agent, I’m lobbying hard to fire up the negotiation NOW. It’s much easier to walk in to Bill Dewitt and John Mozeliak’s office and say:
“Look, even the greatest player of all time can have a bad couple months, but he’s back to normal now. How’d you like those consecutive walk-offs versus the rival Cubs? Pretty nice to have him on your side of the rivalry, huh? What do you say to $200 million?”
But what if Albert does miss six weeks and only plays in 130 games this year? Now the negotiations look like this:
“Yes, Mr. Dewitt, I know he’s going to be 32 come next season, and I know his average and power number plummeted like a stock-market crash, but I’m telling you it was a fluke! Albert Pujols will be worth $30 million a year in 2021, trust me…”
Yeah… not so much.
As for this season, it’ll be fun to see if the Cardinals continue to persevere. I mentioned last week that I liked the Cardinals’ chances to make the playoffs because they have a huge chip on their shoulders in the aftermath of the Adam Wainwright injury. EVERYONE counted them out. Matt Holliday has missed 25 games, David Freese I’ve lost count, and even the likes of Eduardo Sanchez, Gerald Laird, and Allen Craig are missed right now. Throw in Albert Pujols, and that’s a pretty tall order for any team to try and rally around. And of course, you’ve still got the whole “Chris Carpenter only has 1 win” thing going.
Remind me how this team is still in 1st place again? I have no idea. But I know one thing for sure: If they’re still in 1st when Pujols comes off the DL, the Brewers and Reds might as well kiss their playoff chances goodbye.