Tag Archive | "Albert Pujols Contract"

Felix Hernandez megadeal should actually help St. Louis Cardinals in Adam Wainwright negotiations

The St. Louis Cardinals enter spring training this week with another star player entering the final year of his contract just two years after the Albert Pujols contract circus. But the Cardinals suddenly have leverage in these negotiations they never got with Pujols.

AlbertPujolsAdamWainwright

Adam Wainwright will be a free agent at the end of the season if he and the Cardinals can’t agree on a long-term contract before the end of the season. This sounds similar to the Pujols situation, but the Cardinals should suddenly be more optimistic this time around thanks to an American League team on the West Coast.

The Seattle Mariners are close to signing pitcher Felix Hernandez to a huge contract that could range from five to seven years and $135 million to $175 million. Either way, Hernandez is going to be a very rich man, but he probably helped the Cardinals in negotiations with their own ace pitcher.

Hernandez could make somewhere in the neighborhood of $25 million to $27 million annually, which is close to the price tag many people figured it would take to keep Wainwright in St. Louis beyond this season. However, the Cardinals have a few good reasons not to pay Wainwright that much money, or at least not for that long.

See, Hernandez is just 26 years old even though he’s pitched in the big leagues for eight seasons, but he has never had a major arm injury. Wainwright is 31 years old, missed the entire 2011 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his right elbow and struggled at times in 2012 to regain his dominant form.

The bigger concern for the Cardinals was when the San Francisco Giants signed righthanded pitcher Matt Cain to a six-year, $127.5-million contract extension before the beginning of the 2012 season. Cain was 27 years old at the time he signed the deal, but he also had a career record of 69-73.

Granted, the deal worked out last year as Cain led the Giants to a World Series title with a 16-5 record and a perfect game along the way, but Wainwright still looked like the better pitcher at the time.

Maybe it’s been good for the Cardinals to let negotiations with Wainwright drag on into the final year. The constant questions about the contract won’t be pleasant if they don’t get a deal done before the season begins, but the Cardinals would’ve certainly had to pay more for Wainwright if they had signed him to an extension two years ago, and probably even last year. There was a chance Wainwright could have made between $25-30 million per year up until the Hernandez deal.

Wainwright could still shoot for that type of money as a free agent in the offseason if he has a Cy Young Award-caliber 2013 season, but teams will likely be much more unwilling to give a 31-year-old pitcher with a history of arm problems more money than a 26-year-old pitcher who has never spent an appreciable amount of time on the disabled list.

Of course, time will determine if the Mariners made the right decision to sign their righthanded star pitcher. Hernandez could have a Cain-type season, or he could turn into Barry Zito, who hasn’t pitched above .500 since the Giants signed him to a $126-million deal in 2007.

No matter the long-term outcome, news of the Hernandez deal should make Cardinals fans more optimistic their team’s own righthanded star pitcher will take the mound at Busch Stadium in a Cardinals uniform to open the 2014 season, and God-willing, several more seasons beyond that.

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The Next Prince Of St. Louis….Prince Albert Or Prince Fielder

As I watched the Brewers handle the Cardinals over the weekend I began giving a lot of thought to the idea of a new Crown Prince reigning over the Gateway City for the next five years. And the more I thought about it the more it made sense to me. Now before everyone gets all pissy and homerish about the idea of Pujols leaving or Fielder coming to St. Louis (he HAS matured), I am not saying the Cardinals should take this approach but rather it would be irresponsible for them not to consider it. Take a step back yourself, think about it rationally and you SHOULD come to the conclusion that this is not a bad scenario for the Cardinals.

The 2011 Cardinals said good bye to defense as a priority long before opening day so why not continue this trend into 2012. Let the offense to win you games while hoping it out weighs and over shadows the D. Besides, how many games would it cost the Cardinals by swapping out Pujols Gold Glove for Fielder’s lead one? Hard to say, yes there would be a marked dropped off, but would it cost the Cardinals 10 games? The Division? The World Series? Doubtful.

The best approach is to look at this purely from a statistical point of view. Not 331/42/121 vs. 279/38/105 (Pujols’ & Fielder’s averages over the last five full seasons). But rather 31 years vs. 27 years (respective ages), 10 years vs. 5 years (potential contract length) and $300 million vs. $135 million (value of contract). Yes there is concern that Fielder may break down sooner rather than later, but if that is the case, after 5 years (potentially…I know he is a Boras client) you have him off the books. If Albert gets his 10 years, when his inevitable decline begins the Cardinals will still have at minimum 4+ years left and a lot of money still owed. Yes the baseball stat line in heavily weighted towards Pujols now but will that be the case in 3 years? Can the Cardinals afford to take that bet? Mozeliak and crew need to think about 2017-2023, not just 2012-2017.

In five years who knows what the landscape of baseball is going to look like. Holiday, Waino, Molina, Shelby Miller, Jaime Garcia, Zach Cox will hopefully all be fixtures on the Major League roster. Would you as a fan give up most of that to give Pujols his $30 million? Because guess what…that group is going to command its fair share of cash as well. We all remember the McGwire years. It was an amazing time in Cardinal baseball…but not a winning time. St. Louis must decide if it wants to be a side show on the MLB stage or the featured act, contending for the World Series years in and year out.

Besides, and I know it is sac religious to say, but the Cardinals have 1 World Series with Pujols and ZERO playoff games in the last 4 years. Prince Fielder is younger, cheaper (not by a lot), will command less years and is an option Cardinal fans should embrace and Cardinal ownership should explore.

Just my thoughts…if you’re smart you’ll most likely agree. If not keep on reading my articles and you’ll get up to speed.

Follow me on Twitter @SportsbyWeeze or check out my thoughts on the Rams at RamsHerd.com

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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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On Deadlines And Drama

For weeks now Cardinal fans have endured “updates” of the doom and gloom variety on the Albert Pujols contract situation. The Cardinals, for their part, let it be known that they were told the deadline for a contract to be signed this offseason is the second Pujols steps on the Spring Training practice fields in Jupiter, Fla. Pujols has been saying the same for some time now. And as the deadline approaches, reporters from all over the country see it fit to remind baseball fans that Pujols still does not have a new deal. But I have a different take on this saga.

There is no reason to panic. And I even have reasons why.

The Cardinals and the Pujols camp have both been steadfast in maintaining silence to the media while this plays out. So where are these writers and broadcasters getting their information? Well, in short, nowhere. I’m not saying the info is made up, but what are we hearing, really? “Sources” or “People familiar with the negotiations” exist, I’m sure. But are they Pujols, his agent Dan Lozano, GM John Mozeliak, or one of the DeWitts? No, they are not. So what we have heard is little more than speculation. Speculation does not equal news; speculation equals those in the know sharing what they think would, could, or should happen based on what they are told by people who may or may not know what they are talking about.

One of the big items brought out recently was that the Cards had not made a formal offer to Pujols yet. You might think “What the heck are they waiting for?!?!” While I can’t answer that question, let me say this: if it is true the Cardinals have not made a formal offer that could be a good thing. At least Pujols has not turned down an offer from the Cards, right?

And I am not buying the whole “waiting until the last minute” hysteria, either. Do people honestly think DeWitt and Mozeliak are sitting around their offices tossing a stress ball back and forth saying “When do you think we ought to start writing up that Pujols contract?” Get real. Everyone has known this was coming. The Cardinals know exactly what they are going to offer Pujols. They have known for a while, I’m sure. A few i’s probably need to be dotted and a t or two may need to be crossed, but this offer is almost certainly ready to go. Bill DeWitt Jr. is a very shrewd businessman, and John Mozeliak has many years working big, complicated deals as an assistant and general manager. People like this do not procrastinate and they do not miss the boat. What if the team sends the contract offer today, or tomorrow? What if it is signed by Tuesday and this all goes away? Will the panic really have been worth it?

The money and the years certainly do need to be carefully considered. When it was reported that Pujols was asking for $300 million over 10 years, people freaked. “He won’t be worth $30 million per year in his 40s!” they cried. I tend to agree. No player can possibly live up to that salary at that age. And if Pujols and his agent believe the Cardinals are the only team that will have reservations about paying him that much at that age, I think they will end up disappointed should he decide to explore free agency. If it is crazy for the Cards to pay him that much at that age, why would it be OK for another team to do it? Pujols is on the record saying he wants to finish his career as a Cardinal and he is not only about money. So would he really sign somewhere else for an extra year or a couple million more per?

One other thing I will agree with is the superficiality of this deadline. It could be a bluff, or it could be meant to pressure the team to make an offer. But if Mozeliak calls Lozano in May, is the agent really not going to answer the phone? Or will he answer and say, “I understand you’re offering my client a quarter of a billion dollars, but we’re just not going to accept any proposals during the season!” Come on. And the Cards do still have an exclusive negotiating window up until five days after the World Series, should it go that far.

I fully admit I wish this whole thing was already done. I do want the Cardinals to sign Pujols. I want to watch him finish his career wearing the birds on the bat. And I think they can come to an agreement that satisfies both Pujols’ desires and the team’s budgetary expectations in order to field a competitive team.

But the sky is not falling. Not yet, anyway.

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Cards Start Working on Depth Issues

The Cardinals added a couple veteran arms Friday to begin addressing an area that crippled the 2010 squad: depth.

The Cards signed Miguel Batista and Ian Snell to minor league deals and invited them to Spring Training. Batista, 39, and Snell, 29, figure to compete for the “sixth starter” role, which means they will be asked to pitch long relief and make a spot start in the event one of the rotation mainstays need a break. Snell also may put some pressure on Kyle Lohse in competing for the fifth spot in the rotation.

Hopefully the team is not done adding pieces like this. A good number of quality free agents remain on the market, and as Spring Training approaches their asking prices will only go down.

The biggest area of concern continues to be third base. I don’t think anyone wants to give up on David Freese, but he is returning from ankle surgery and has yet to prove he can stay on the field for an entire season. I don’t even have a problem with Freese being anointed the starter before he takes the field; what I do take issue with is the Cards going into the season without a true third baseman as his backup. The Joe Thurston/Felipe Lopez/Pedro Feliz stuff isn’t going to fly anymore. But I also understand the Cards don’t have millions to throw around until they know the outcome of the Albert Pujols contract situation. So the signing will need to be of the low-risk, high-reward variety. Perhaps a bounce-back candidate like Joe Crede would be a good move.

Another bench move should be to get a “damage” bat; a known presence that gives other teams pause. I like the idea of Dan Descalso, Jon Jay, and Allen Craig getting a chance but no one will consider them to be guys that are lurking as a pinch hitter in the late innings. Jermaine Dye and Jorge Cantu are a couple of players who could re-gain their power strokes if given a shot.

I know these are not guys who are going to win MVP awards anytime soon. But the Cardinals already have a full starting roster for 2011; they need pieces and role players. Friday’s signings are a first step in what appears to be the right direction. But thinking they are done would be a mistake.

Chris Reed is a freelance writer who also writes for InsideSTL Mondays and at Bird Brained whenever he feels like it. Follow him on Twitter @birdbrained.

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St. Louis Cardinals Monday Morning Links: December 6

It has not been a terribly eventful week, but it has been a bit more eventful than weeks past.

The Cardinals would complete a trade for middle infielder Ryan Theriot, sending Blake Hawksworth to the city of angels to wear Dodger blue. They would follow that move up with one that very few people seen coming, signing former Astro Lance Berkman to a one-year contract to play the outfield.

As we take a look around the Internet this week we find our favorite sites discussing Berkman, Brendan Ryan, and even a guest post from yours truly. Enjoy some links and some material from various sources around Cardinal Nation and we will be back at it tomorrow with your history lesson from Bob Netherton.

Our friends over at The McBrayer-Baseball Blog posted one of the first excited articles about the arrival of Lance Berkman.

Meanwhile, old friend Tom at Cardinals GM feels that the team just added a lot of payroll and got little defense in return.

One of the newer blogs out in the world, Bleed Cardinal Red With Me, takes a look at the 2011 lineup with the new additions to the roster.

Pip over at Fungoes says the jury may be out on the Theriot deal, for now, and provides his usual expert analysis.

One of my favorite sites, Play A Hard Nine, takes a look at Theriot and Brendan Ryan and the need for one of them to rebound this season.

Finally, in shameless self promotion (I’m good at that), I made a bit of a homecoming this past week. You see, my passion for writing on the internet all stemmed from some guest posts at Cards Diaspora. This week, the minds of that site asked me my opinion on the Albert Pujols contract. My thoughts, as well as some people far more intelligent and well spoken than myself, can be found in this article from Friday.

Join us tonight as we feature our first panel discussions about the Cardinals and Royals on I-70 Baseball Radio.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball as well as the Assignment Editor for BaseballDigest.com.
He is the host of I-70 Radio, hosted every week on BlogTalkRadio.com.
Follow him on Twitter here.

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Eventually You Have Nothing Left To Trade

Many baseball fans spent Saturday digging their fingernails into their mouse, keyboard, remote, couches and chairs, waiting to hear the news on what (if anything) their team would do as the 4PM EST trading deadline loomed. For Cardinal fans, after already missing out on such names as Cliff Lee, Dan Haren, and Roy Oswalt, fans were starting to wonder what, if anything, the team could pull off.

After hearing Jake Westbrook’s name tossed around as a possibility for several weeks, fans were not surprised to see it resurface late Friday night. Westbrook looks like a Dave Duncan special: gets a lot of ground balls, first year after being in injury rehab, and the price for him should have been reasonably low. Some figured it would take one, maybe two prospects to wrangle him away from the Cleveland Indians, and the words ‘major league ready’ would not be uttered once about said prospect(s). Imagine the collective shock that went through Cardinal nation when within the course of a frenzied hour or two, Jake Westbrook was indeed headed to St. Louis, but 2008 All-Star Ryan Ludwick was on his way out, as part of a three team deal with the Indians and San Diego Padres. Bill Ivie broke down the deal, reminding a slightly stunned and confused fan base that Ludwick leaving would clear payroll for the looming Albert Pujols contract.

Why did it come down to Jake Westbrook though? Why could the Cardinals not pull the trigger on guys like Oswalt or a big bat to steady a lineup that changes its mind on a daily basis whether or not to crush baseballs or fans’ hearts?

On Friday, once it appeared that the Oswalt trade had been finalized, Astros’ GM Ed Wade appeared on the Mike & Mike show on ESPN Radio. When asked about whether or not he would have been willing to trade in the division, whether it be to the Cardinals or anyone else, Wade answered politically, saying, “It would have been difficult but we were prepared to make a deal there if the talent fit…. That said, at the end of the day we had to make the deal that made the most sense for the Astros. From a talent standpoint we could’ve matched up with a team within the division whether it was the Cardinals or the Reds or Cubs or any club that Roy would’ve been willing to go to.”

Now, I am not going to wax nostalgic about how great it would have been to get Oswalt (although if you want to, you can listen to the full interview here), but I will tell you what I heard here. Trading within the division, painful though it may be, is not a foreign concept. The Atlanta Braves and New York Mets did it just last year – swapping Jeff Francoeur and Ryan Church straight up. Go back far enough in Cardinal history and you will undoubtedly learn about the Cards getting Lou Brock from the Chicago Cubs, in what is possibly one of the most lopsided trades of all time.

The point that Wade was making was that Philadelphia put together the best package. They had the young, talented players required to get a top of the rotation starter. The Cardinals were not even close to being capable of matching that high number of quality players. Not for Oswalt, not for Haren, not for Lee, not without trading away the farm. Again.

There is a reason that the Cardinals farm system is ranked among the worst in baseball, and the assessment is a fair one. The team seems to have been in ‘win now’ mode for several years now, and have made some of the bigger trades in the summer, most recently in 2009. Yes, it was just last year that the Cardinals gave up a total of five prospects to get Matt Holliday and Mark DeRosa. They weren’t just any five prospects. The team was willing to part with some of their very top prospects, including 2008 first round draft pick Brett Wallace (who, in a small twist of fate, has found himself as the new starting first baseman for the Astros, starting last night). When you combine trades like those over a number of seasons with a couple of weak draft years, eventually you get to the point where your trading chips just do not match up to other teams, and this is where the Cardinals front office finds themselves today.

Make no mistake, there are still several players left in the system that probably will be major league players, including 2009 first round draft choice Shelby Miller. However, the Cardinals are not the Yankees. They are not fiscally able to go out and buy marquee players just for kicks. At some point, the team needs to take a break from wheeling and dealing and taking a ‘win now’ approach and let their minor league system restock for a bit.

For the big league squad, this might be it for trades on the year. Of course, there is still the waiver wire, and the Cardinals have made deals after the trade deadline in the past (See Woody Williams in 2001). Chances are the front office will soon start commenting on the imminent return of starting pitcher Kyle Lohse and third baseman David Freese, saying that each of these two returning is just like making a deal at the deadline.

Is it enough?

Angela Weinhold covers the Cardinals for i70baseball.com, BaseballDigest.com and writes at Cardinal Diamond Diaries. You may follow her on Twitter here or follow Cardinal Diamond Diaries here.

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Jake Westbrook A Cardinal

Throughout the month of July, the hot stove has been on full tilt for most contending teams in baseball. The Cardinals, with a few exceptions, have not really been one of those teams.

They were connected to Roy Oswalt, but the Astros refused to deal within their division and shipped the veteran off to the Philadelphia Phillies. They were briefly connected to Miguel Tejada, but there really did not seem to be a good fit. Other than that, the Cardinals have openly discussed their desire for a starting pitcher and a bat in the middle infield.

Check Starting Pitcher off that list. St. Louis has completed a three team swap that will bring Jake Westbrook of the Indians and Class A pitcher Nick Greenwood of the Padres to the team in exchange for Ryan Ludwick, who is on his way to San Diego.

Westbrook has been successful in his time for Cleveland, posting seasons of 15 wins in 2005 and 2006 and 14 wins in 2004. He has been exactly what the Cardinals are looking for, an innings eater. He has eclipsed 200 inning four times in his career before succumbing to Tommy John surgery in 2008. A pitcher that seems to have already subscribed to the Dave Duncan pitching manual. While he pitches to contact and has a high ground ball ratio, Westbrook will look to refine his approach under some of the top pitching coaches in the league.

More on the Cardinals trade can be found at Stan Musial’s Stance.

Ryan Ludwick has been a cornerstone of the Cardinals for a few years but has struggled with injuries lately and has often been discussed as being priced out of the Cardinals’ range. With the looming Albert Pujols contract extension, the Cardinals will need to save money at certain positions and with the production of Jon Jay, the Cardinals appear to have a surplus in the outfield. Ludwick will take a productive bat to San Diego to solidify a playoff run for a team that has quietly been one of the best in baseball over the last 12 months.

Nick Greenwood has spent the 2010 season playing for the Fort Wayne Tin Caps, the Padres Class A Affiliate. A starting pitcher that has struck out 65 batters in 95.1 innings and only walked 19, Greenwood projects by many scouts to be a middle of the rotation starter or long relief pitcher. The Padres drafted Greenwood in the 14th round of last year’s draft and has expressed that he is learning about the scouting system and how hard it can be at this level to face the same hitters repeatedly.

All things considered, the Cardinals took care of one of their needs in Westbrook, but John Mozeliak will still be on the lookout for a productive addition to his offense. Now the focus turns to players that can clear waivers.

Bill Ivie is the founder of I-70 Baseball and the Assignment Editor for BaseballDigest.com

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