Tag Archive | "Last Winter"

Baseball Digest Report Card: Royals

The parent site of i70baseball, Baseball Digest, has recently been running their end of the year Report Cards for each franchise. The following is the post written by Todd Fertig for the site about the Kansas City Royals.

The revolving door has spun crazily in Kansas City the last several years, but the turnover may finally have come to a halt. The decade-long “youth movement” may finally have produced some youth worth keeping. The Royals minor league system earned a number one ranking last winter, and though the big league team lost 91 games, one by one top prospects matriculated to KC. By the end of the season the team’s entire starting lineup was 27 years old or younger, and only dreadful pitching kept the youngsters from contending in the AL Central.

Rotation: F
Hopes for the Royals’ pitching staff were especially low entering 2011, so you would think it would be hard for the starters to disappoint. But the Royals’ youthful offense and fielding were unexpectedly strong, making the weakness of the rotation all the more glaring.

Kansas City finished 27th in the league in quality starts, as well as team ERA, and 26th in opponents’ slugging and OPS. Royal starters managed a mere two complete games, and just six shutouts. To comprehend just how directionless was the staff, consider that for an extended period KC utilized a six-man rotation, prolonging the Kyle Davies train wreck. He finished 1-9 with a 6.75 ERA before he was mercifully released.

It’s hard to believe the team’s best starter was nearly left off the roster prior to the season. But after searching high and low for anyone else, the Royals kept Bruce Chen, who wound up the team’s only starter with a winning record. Chen led the team in wins (12) and ERA (3.77).

Danny Duffy gained experience, but that’s about all you can say. Jeff Francis was a stop-gap at best. But Luke Hochevar may have turned a corner – he went 6-3 after the All-Star break, and finished with a 1.283 WHIP. Felipe Paulino was a revelation, posting 8.6 SO/9 and a 1.372 WHIP.

Bullpen: D
Though the bevy of young arms in the pen gained a measure of acclaim, this group was not really all that effective as a whole in 2011. Closer Joakim Soria’s troubles were well documented. Soria blew several saves when the Royals still had hopes of contending, and the psychological effect of those collapses on the rest of the club cannot be overestimated. Soria had never posted an ERA above 2.48. This year it was 4.03.

Setup man Aaron Crow started with the sizzle the Royals hoped for from a first-rounder. But after being named to the 2011 All-Star Game, he let teams hit .313 and score 4.34 earned runs after the break. The cast of Tim Collins, Louis Coleman, Blake Wood, Nate Adcock and Greg Holland was at times serviceable, while at other times atrocious.

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Catchers: C-
The Royals foolishly hoped Jason Kendall had something left in the tank. The 37-year-old never made it off the DL. Matt Treanor filled in admirably, but there was never a hope he would hit. Bryan Pena disappointed at the plate as well, and the Royals finally turned to 21-year-old phenom Salvador Perez in September. His lock on the position is now rock-solid.

Infield: B
Seemingly every month, an infield position was handed over to one of the Royals’ coveted prospects. Alcides Escobar assumed the shortstop duties on opening day. In May, first baseman Eric Hosmer made his feverishly-anticipated debut. June saw Mike Moustakas move in at third base. The transition was complete in August when Johnny Giavotella took over at second.

Giavotella and Moustakas had mixed results. Moustakas struggled mightily for much of the season. But he broke loose with 12 doubles, four homers and 19 RBI in his last 36 games. During that span, only one player bested his .379 average.

Hosmer asserted himself as the team leader and will only get better. The 21-year-old made a push for Rookie of the Year with 19 homers and 78 RBI in just 128 games. Escobar, meanwhile, looks to be the long-term answer at short.

Billy Butler is a capable fill-in at first, and is arguably one of the best designated hitters in the league. He hit .291 and found his power stroke in the second half to finish with 19 homers and 44 doubles.

Outfield: A
A very convincing argument could be made that Alex Gordon, Melky Cabrera and Jeff Francoeur made up THE BEST outfield in all of baseball in 2011. Defensively, they blew the curve with 49 assists. Gordon earned a Gold Glove in left, and Francoeur got snubbed in right in favor of Nick Markakis.

The trio was also a doubles machine. They combined for 136 doubles, each finishing in the top 8 of the league. As a group they also belted 61 homers.

At the plate, Gordon had one of the best seasons by a Royals outfielder in history. He was one of just five players in all of baseball to hit better than .300 with 20+ homers and 45+ doubles.

Top Offensive Player
Gordon’s 5.9 WAR was KC’s highest since 2003. In just his second year in left field, he became one of the best.

Top Pitcher
Chen missed more than a month, or his numbers might have been even more impressive. Even so, he continues to pitch like an adult, as opposed to Davies, Hochevar, Duffy, etc. Few in baseball get more from their physical ability than Chen.

Todd Fertig
I-70 Baseball

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Rob Rains’ Inside Baseball: Priorities

There is no major question about how much money the Cardinals will spend this off-season. Their payroll for 2012 almost certainly will land in the $110 million range, give or take a few million, just a small increase from this year’s total.

Bullpen

The important question is, How will they spend all of those millions?

Last winter it was all about the offense. The Cardinals’ braintrust admitted they were willing to make sacrifices on defense, believing the expected extra offensive boost would make up for those shortcomings.

Through Sunday, that “extra” offense amounted to less than 1/4thof an extra run per game, an average of 4.7 runs a game instead of 4.5 runs a game scored by the Cardinals in 2010. The result is that the Cardinals most likely will fall short of the playoffs once again, now trailing the Brewers by 9 ½ games in the NL Central and the Braves by 8 ½ games in the wild card race with 22 games to play.

So as the planning begins to determine their spending priorities for 2012, here’s some unsolicited advice for Bill DeWitt, John Mozeliak and company:

Go get pitching, pitching and more pitching.

All it takes is one look at the current National League standings, and a check back at the results of the past few seasons, to realize that pitching is what wins games. Home runs are nice, and fans really like the fireworks, but if a team wants to win, pitching is paramount.

The best team in baseball, the Phillies, leads the NL with a 3.08 ERA. The Giants, the worst offensive team in the league, have stayed in contention in the NL West because of a 3.15 team ERA. The Braves follow with a 3.35 ERA.

Before one thinks this is a one-year aberration, consider that the Giants led the league in ERA in 2010 and won the World Series. The Dodgers led in ERA in 2009 and 2008 and lost in the NLCS both years.

The Cardinals came into Sunday’s game with a 3.91 ERA, 10th in the NL, up nearly half a run, from the team’s combined 3.57 ERA, which ranked fourth in the league, and nearly half a run per game below the league average. If the Cardinals hold on to their current spot among NL teams, it would be their worst ERA ranking since the 2007 staff finished 11th in the league with a 4.65 ERA.

That information kind of makes their league-leading batting average and league-leading runs total a little less important.

Another fact which shows it is even more important than ever to improve the pitching staff — if the Cardinals want to contend in 2012 — is the NL trend which has seen the league’s average ERA decline every year since 2006. The 2011 season could mark the first time the league’s composite ERA drops below 4.00 since 1992 – meaning that at a time when the Cardinals’ numbers are getting worse, the other team’s numbers are getting better.

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While no one is suggesting the Cardinals come close to matching what the Phillies spend on starting pitching – a combined $65 million this year for Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, Cole Hamels and Joe Blanton – they should be able to be competitive with the other top pitching clubs in the league – the Giants, Braves and Brewers.

The Giants’ starters this year earned a combined $44 million, the Brewers $31 million and the Braves just under .$30 million, although both of those totals will no doubt increase due to raises for their own pitchers in 2012.

After picking up Adam Wainwright’s $9 million option for 2012, the Cardinals have $33 million committed to four starting pitchers for 2012 – Wainwright, Kyle Lohse ($12.2 million), Jake Westbrook ($8.5 million) and Jaime Garcia ($3.3 million). Chris Carpenter has a $15 million option, or $1 million buyout, as well.

If the Cardinals choose to buy out Carpenter, and try to re-negotiate a new contract, they basically will have about $38 million at their disposal if they keep the total team payroll near this year’s total.

That extra money, of course, comes from Carpenter and not re-signing Albert Pujols and Ryan Theriot, which brings up the biggest question facing the Cardinals this winter – do they want to keep Pujols, or do they want to win?

From a simple economic standpoint it doesn’t seem possible to do both.

If Pujols had not hit free agency until after 2013 or so, it might have been possible because the Cardinals’ farm system is loaded with young talented pitchers, but all of them except Shelby Miller are probably at least two years away from arriving in St. Louis. That stable of good, cheap talent would allow the Cardinals to spend a higher percentage of their payroll on one player, but it just doesn’t seem possible for 2012 – if the priority is to win. Those pitchers are now in Class A ball or lower, and the fact is the Double A Springfield staff, even with Miller, had the worst ERA in the Texas League and allowed the most walks and most home runs in the league this season. Their bullpen also blew 25 saves. Almost all of the pitchers at Triple A Memphis are not prospects.

There is no question that Pujols is a Hall of Fame player and a great citizen of St. Louis. But what we have learned, once again, over the past five seasons is that baseball is not, never has been and never will be a one-man game. As great as Pujols has been the last five years – including two MVP awards – the Cardinals have won zero playoff games in that time span.

If they can re-sign Lance Berkman for a reasonable increase over the $8 million he made this year, the Cardinals have a short-term answer to replace Pujols in the lineup. Their long-term answer might be 23-year-old Matt Adams, the Texas League Player of the Year this season who hit 32 homers and drove in 101 runs to go along with a .304 average at Springfield. Allen Craig can take over Berkman’s place in right field.

The Cardinals need to make the tough choice that it will be much wiser to make those moves and take the money it would cost to re-sign Pujols and re-sign Carpenter to a lesser contract, go sign another starting pitcher and a closer. A new shortstop would be nice too, but let’s try not to be greedy.

There will be four above-average left-handers on the market this winter, C.C. Sabathia, C.J. Wilson, Cole Hamels and Mark Buehrle. Because of his St. Louis connections, and the fact he likely would take a shorter contract, Buehrle has to be the focus of the Cardinals’ attention, and sooner rather than later.

Getting Carpenter to come back for less money would also be a plus, allowing the team to explore what the market could possibly bring by trading either Westbrook or Lohse. A starting rotation for 2012 of Wainwright, Buehrle, Carpenter, Garcia and either Westbrook or Lohse would definitely be an upgrade over the 2011 rotation.

How good is Buehrle, who will be 33 next March? Before having his worst start of the year Sunday night against the Tigers, he had gone 10-3 in his previous 20 starts for the White Sox and had the second best ERA in the American League since May 1. Justin Verlander was at 2.04 since that date, Buehrle was at 2.47 before the Tigers erupted for seven earned runs against him in just 3 1/3 innings.

As for the bullpen, Sunday’s 10th inning loss to the Reds marked the 22nd time this season the Cardinals have lost a game in the opponent’s final at-bat. The Cardinals’ total of 23 blown saves is tied for the second highest total in the NL, behind Washington’s 25. The Phillies have six blown saves all season.

The best closer on the market this winter will be Heath Bell, but others to consider would include Jonathan Papelbon and Matt Capps. Bell and Papelbon have had the most success and experience in their careers, but also will cost the most. Capps has not had a great year this season with the Twins, saving 15 of 23 opportunities while splitting the job with Joe Nathan, but he is 31 of 41 the last two years and is only 29 years old.

It will not be easy for the Cardinals to say goodbye to Pujols. Many fans no doubt will protest and be upset. Winning, however, will calm them down and bring them back to Busch Stadium.

And as history shows, the road to the pennant starts on the pitching mound.

Head over to RobRains.com to read Rob’s notes on the rest of Major and Minor League Baseball.

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Rob Rains Inside Baseball: Cardinal Contracts

We likely won’t know for a couple of years, or more, if the Cardinals made a wise investment in signing pitcher Jamie Garcia to a new four-year contract.

Rob

What we do know, however, is that there are a couple of players on the Cardinals who should have been considered a more important priority than Garcia when it came to signing a contract or an extension for 2012 and beyond.

If the Cardinals had not signed Garcia to the four-year, $27 million deal last week, he would have been eligible for arbitration for the first time in his career this winter. In other words, the only risk the Cardinals would have had in waiting to sign Garcia was financial. It’s doubtful, even if he had gone through arbitration, that he would have received a deal for more than the $3.37 million he will now receive next year.

In the case of Lance Berkman and Yadier Molina, however, there is a far greater risk involved in waiting.

Nobody can argue that signing Berkman last winter to a one-year, $8 million deal has been one of the best moves the Cardinals have made in a long time. With 27 homers and 69 RBIs in the first 101 games of the season through Sunday, he is on pace to record one of the best seasons by a switch-hitter in franchise history.

His contributions in the clubhouse have also been well documented, and he has stated often how much he is enjoying this season and playing in St. Louis.

Given that background, and add in the fact that Berkman also can play first base, and the current first baseman is a candidate to leave town this winter as a free agent, wouldn’t it make sense to try to get him signed to a new contract now, before Berkman can again be a free agent this winter?

The Cardinals have to know based on Berkman’s health and production this season that some team will no doubt put a higher offer on the table this winter if Berkman reaches free agency. Letting him even that choice would be a major mistake.

He will be 36 next February, so Berkman probably is not going to seek more than a two- or three-year contract, and the dollar amount should be reasonable. Waiting will only cost the Cardinals more money, and perhaps, the loss of the player. What would the team’s fans think about the middle of the batting order next year if both Albert Pujols and Berkman were gone?

In the case of Molina, he has a contract option worth $7 million for 2012, which the team certainly will exercise. At 29, Molina is unquestionably the best defensive catcher in the league and is now in the prime of his career.

And that makes it important for the Cardinals to get Molina signed to a long-term extension before he is eligible for free agency at the end of next season. Letting him get to the open market would be a major mistake, and even letting him go into next season sniffing free agency would be to repeat what has happened with Pujols this season.

While the Cardinals have prospects and young, less expensive help coming through the minor leagues, especially on the pitching side, they have nobody who is in Molina’s class, and neither do most teams in the NL. Trying to get him signed to a long-term extension should be at the top of General Manager John Mozeliak’s agenda.

The Cardinals likely would counter by saying they really don’t know what kind of money they will have to spend for next year and beyond until there is a resolution to Pujols’ status. That argument would make sense – if they had not locked up Garcia to the new deal last week.

The reverse can just as easily be argued – signing the other players first, knowing what the framework of your team will be if Pujols leaves – then offer him what you can and hope it is enough. If it isn’t, thank him for what he has done the last 11 seasons and move on.

Doing so without Berkman and Molina in the lineup, however, would be a major mistake.

Head over to RobRains.com to read more about Lance Berkman, Jaime Garcia, the Cardinals stolen bases and notes from around Major League Baseball by clicking here.

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Blog Your Way To The K Report

Life is weird.

I started writing about the Royals on a whim. I was a new at-home dad, and while the boy kept me busy, I also had some time on my hands when he slept. I filled a lot of that time watching and reading about the Royals. I joined Twitter with the idea that I would just follow Royals fans without posting myself. 1,300 tweets and a bunch of blog posts later, I found myself with press credentials, interviewing Ned Yost, Jeff Montgomery, Eric Hosmer, Ryan Lefebvre and Dayton Moore last night.

I broke my intentions of not tweeting pretty quickly, and started things off with an oh-so witty complaint about Mike Jacobs:

Your Royals DH for the evening: .268 OBP, 87 K, 8 BB. He's been designated to do some hitting tonight.
@KC_Baseball
Aaron Stilley

For an often cooped-up Royals die-hard, the internet became an important way for me to be able to connect with other fans. Again on a whim, I set up a blog to serve as a virtual dumping ground for baseball research and thoughts I wanted to get off my chest. Then came an offer to write here on I70Baseball.com, and things got more formal with a weekly deadline. The whims have turned into what I guess you would call a serious hobby.

While I have enjoyed the ride, I have never taken myself too seriously as a Royals blogger, which added to the surprise when I got the call that I would be participating in the first “Blog Your Way To The K” event. Lead by media mavens Mike Swanson, David Holtzman and Erin Sleddens, the Royals are taking progressive steps to allow social media users some serious access to Royals figures. It started with the Digital Digest last winter, where bloggers got the chance to interview Moore, Yost, Billy Butler and Jeff Francoeur. Last night’s event was the first of its kind at a game, but we were told they will host one or two more this season, and could very well be moving towards a full-time social media section in the vein of the Indians Social Suite.

"Swanee" tells us what's up with the what's up

Our evening started with comments from Mike Swanson, VP of Communications and Broadcasting and 33-year veteran of MLB media relations. Swanson calls himself a “dinosaur,” but we should all be so willing to embrace change after becoming seasoned veterans. After thanking the higher powers that the previous night’s 19-1 loss was not blogger night, he told us, “Blogs are every bit the promotional entities the Kansas City Star or Sports Illustrated are. We read your stuff. That’s how you got here.” Swanson told us they do not mind criticism—they just prefer that it be informed criticism.

Swanson took us down to the Royals dugout where Ned Yost was finishing up his pre-game scrum with the mainstream press. Yost graciously agreed to have a quick bull session with the bloggers afterwards. He told us that dealing with the media is not his favorite thing to do, and having to rehash the previous day’s game is a particular challenge for him since he would prefer to look ahead. I asked him what the ideal usage for the two bullpen lefties would be now that Everett Teaford has joined Tim Collins. Yost responded with specifics: he recognizes Collins is not a lefty specialist, calling him “more of a blend” since he has success against righties. He said he will not limit Teaford to being a lefty specialist, but Yost likes his sweeping breaking balls against left-handed hitters, and will probably call on him when lefties are “stacked” together, while Collins will be the man when there are alternating lefties/righties coming up for the opposition.

Jeff Montgomery was up next, greeting us with a cheerful, “Hi bloggers!” Monty looks forward to seeing Joakim Soria break his Royals saves record, and feels he will “definitely” do it if he can stay healthy. He pointed out Soria has a nice head start—Monty was not the Royals closer until he was 27, whereas Soria has racked up 138 saves and is turning 27 today. (Soria still has a long way to go to catch Monty’s 304.) Montgomery told the pre-game audience on Fox Sports that he learned the bloggers do not all live in their parents’ basement.

Hos's favorite word is "unbelievable"

From there we got to enjoy Royals batting practice from the field, and some guy named Eric Hosmer agreed to talk to us. He is loving life right now, and was excited about his recent Omaha teammates Teaford and Danny Duffy joining him in Kansas City. He has been giving his mom a hard time about getting more TV time than him after her endearing, weak-kneed, “Oh my God!” reaction to his first MLB home run. Ironically, it has taken Swanson’s encouragement and tutelage to get the 21 year-old tweeting.

Bruce Chen is on the disabled list, but he was in uniform shagging balls during BP, and came to chat with the bloggers. He said he feels ready to pitch again, but the training staff is holding him back as a precaution. Swanson and Holtzman said they have been working on getting Chen on Twitter; Chen explained he is not entirely comfortable expressing himself in writing. He can “talk his way out of things,” but is worried about getting himself into trouble on Twitter. The more we talked about it though, the more intrigued he seemed. He proposed his account could be a “ladies tweet,” like ladies nights at clubs. “Ladies with pictures” he clarified. He asked Holtzman if “that’s what she said” jokes would be permissible on Twitter. (Holtzman said yes.) Wrapping things up, Swanson told Chen, “Go shag balls, Panamasian.” As Chen jogged away, he called, “That’s what she said!”

We headed back to the Joe Burke Suite just off the main press box, where Fox play-by-play man Ryan Lefebvre met with us. He said he does not get a chance to read much Royals talk on blogs or Twitter due to the time constraints of his usual game prep along with being a husband and father. Our next visitor was the man, the myth, the legend: General Manager Dayton Moore. When asked about the financial implications of bringing up Hosmer and Duffy early in the season, Moore replied that those concerns are secondary to winning. He also allowed that the moves build a trusting relationship with the players that could pay off with them wanting to remain Royals. Draft preparation is taking up a lot of his time right now, and he said the Royals have a list of “10 to 12” guys they are looking at taking with the fifth overall pick. I asked his take on the potential for the draft going to a strict “slotted” signing bonus system for draft picks; he said he cannot say too much about his opinion on it, but that he is on the committee taking a look at it, so his thoughts are being heard within MLB. He did say he likes the flexibility of the current system. Another interesting tidbit is that plans call for Duffy to throw a total of 160—180 innings this year (he threw 36 in Omaha before his promotion).

My perch for the game

All of that was enough to make for quite a day—but apparently there was still a baseball game to be played, which felt almost like an afterthought to the incredible pregame activities. There were not a lot of highlights for the home team as they dropped their fourth straight. We did get to see Hosmer’s first career triple and a slick double play started by a diving Mike Aviles. The best moment was Teaford’s debut—debuts are always a treat, and Teaford’s first inning was especially nice with a quick three-up, three-down. The Royals made some groan-inducing outs on the base-paths; the team’s aggression in that area even when down by five runs was a little puzzling. We got another visitor in the booth when Joel Goldberg stopped by and did a portion of the Fox Sports broadcast from our suite.

Joel outed @fakenedyost on the broadcast

After the game it was down to Yost’s press conference. He was not in a great mood after the loss. He explained the aggressiveness on the base paths by saying you cannot sit back and wait for home runs in huge Kauffman Stadium. The money quote was, “Winners battle through adversity. Losers freaking lay down and quit.” After the mainstream press got their questions in, Swanson opened it up to the bloggers huddled in the back. We did not seem to have many questions left after our long, whirlwind day. Mike Engel of Kings of Kauffman redeemed us by asking if Yost was noticing anything different about the swing of slumping Alex Gordon. Yost does feel Alex is “pressing a little bit,” which might be leading to him “getting a little long” with his swing.

Yost proposes that the Royals not "freaking lay down and quit"

I felt a bit torn throughout the whole experience—was I a fan or was I media? Was it OK to cheer during the game? I did not cheer much, but that was partly due to the thick window in front of me—no one would have heard it anyway. I had entered a weird gray area somewhere in between. The team’s media people are trying to figure out this strange new landscape right along with us. Regardless of where writing about baseball in Kansas City takes me, I expect I will always be a fan first. But I cannot deny I could get used to player and staff access and official press game notes, a media guide and a score-sheet with the line-ups already filled in waiting for me when I show up to a game. It is a night I will never forget, and I cannot thank the Royals enough for having us and being such great hosts. In the end, I regard the whole thing as the ultimate reward for my passion for Kansas City baseball. Go Royals.

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Silence On The Albert Front

Winter has officially begun, and Spring Training is still a good month and a half away. Around the league, the hot stove is keeping hot. The Phillies landed Cliff Lee, The Red Sox added Adrian Gonzales, and even the Milwaukee Brewers made a big splash by acquiring 2009 AL Cy Young winner Zack Greinke.

The Cardinals have thrown a few logs in the hot stove to keep the fire going this winter. The biggest signing to this point has been Lance Berkman. But the elephant in the room remains: “Will the Cardinals re-sign Albert Pujols?” And the silence on the contract talks is worrisome. The Cardinals essentially have about 8 weeks left to lock in Albert before he hits the free agent market: 6 weeks until spring training, and anywhere from 2-6 weeks after the 2011 season ends depending on how deep the Cards go in the playoffs (Pujols says he won’t negotiate during the season).

It’s in the Cardinals’ best interest to get this deal done as soon as possible. The longer they’ve waited to address Pujols’ contract, the more it has cost them. Last winter, they raised the price on themselves by giving Matt Holliday a $120 million, 7 year contract. Holliday helped the Cardinals take over the Central Division in his brief two months in St. Louis before abruptly having a horrendous Division Series vs the Dodgers. He failed to take his bat off his shoulders with the bases loaded and no outs in Game 1, then dropped what would’ve been the 27th and winning out in game 2. The Cardinals got swept in large part to Holliday’s anti-clutch performance. But for that, he was rewarded with $17 million per season through 2017.

Pujols’ price went up again when the Phillies signed Ryan Howard to a $125 million, 5 year contract over the summer. Howard’s a fellow first baseman in the National League, and has a championship ring and an MVP award. It’s a good starting point (yes, starting point) for negotiating a contract for Pujols. Prince Fielder, another big name first-baseman in the National League, will likely also get an enormous contract at the end of next season. The Scott Boras Client will be looking to at least out-do Holliday (another Boras client) if not Howard.

So essentially, a bargain-basement price for Pujols would be in the neighborhood of 5-7 years at $27-30 million per year. Again, that’s assuming Prince Fielder doesn’t somehow get a contract like that, which would drive the price for Pujols even higher.

And as Cardinals fans, you have to begin to ask yourself: “Is he worth it?” I know, I know, what a blasphemous thing to say! Of course he’s worth it, he’s Albert Pujols! Look, I’m not saying Albert isn’t worth that kind of crazy jack. Based on what Ryan Howard got and what Pujols has done in his career, I think it’s fair to say he should become the game’s highest paid player. The question is: “Can the Cardinals field a competitive team with Holliday and Pujols making close to a third of a billion dollars?”

I say no.

You’d be looking at a team with one, maybe two good starters, a low-paid infield, no Yadier Molina, and at least one if not two holes in the outfield. You couldn’t afford a big money closer, and you’d basically be hoping to strike gold in your farm system at multiple positions. Of course, the Brewers and Reds can tell you that only works out once or twice every quarter-century. The Royals and Pirates are still waiting for it to work.

The success of the Cardinals’ franchise has been cyclical. They were good in the late 20s/early 30s, they were good in the 40s, the 60s, the 80s, and this past decade. The team has been in the playoffs in ’00-’02. ’04-’06, and ’09. I wrote last week that perhaps the Cardinals were looking to play for 2011 only, leaving the future of the franchise up in the air.

And maybe that’s the case.

Losing Pujols would be crippling, but keeping him might be crippling as well.

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