Albert Pujols has had arguably the best 10 seasons to start a career in the history of MLB. Cardinal Nation went into a semi-panic mode at the end of July in 2010 when Pujols batting average dipped to .295. Pujols was able to hit over .300 once again, yet finishing with a career low .312. It was only the second time in his career he hit below .327, and not since his sophomore season when he hit .314. Pujols continues to put up amazing numbers for a power hitter. It’s that much more amazing when you consider how much tougher he’s pitched to every year, and the routine adjustments must be frustrating.
I’ve said it many times, and I’ll say it again. I don’t think we will truly understand how great he is until years after he is no longer a Cardinal, due to either a trade or retirement.
With that being said, the question has to be asked though. Should the Cardinals bring back the game’s best player? If we were the New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox, it would be a no brainer. However, the St. Louis Cardinals cannot afford to miss on a contract the size of what Pujols will receive. If the Cardinals can somehow get Pujols to sign for $25 million per year, which would still be a bargain, they will need him to keep producing at the same level to be competitive. If he starts to decline or gets injured, it’s hard to imagine they would be able to compete at all.
The Cardinals are in a tough position. I think the Cardinals would still draw 3 million people a year if they traded Pujols but stayed competitive. If they traded Pujols and missed on what they got in return, it could get ugly. I’m not sure how many people would come out in full force if Pujols stayed but the team was not in the race because of decline or injury. I’m not sure Albert is going to start to decline anytime soon, but eventually, even the great ones do. The problem with resigning him is that I think it will take at least an 8 year contract at $25 million per year, and like I said, that would be a discount.
It will be hard for the Cardinals to stay competitive if they have $42-$46 million tied up in Matt Holliday and Albert Pujols, assuming the payroll isn’t going beyond $110 million. But perhaps resigning Pujols and going for it all over the next couple of years is the way to go. Also, Matt Holliday and Albert Pujols may be enough if Colby Rasmus continues to improve, Brendan Ryan proves last year with the bat was a fluke, and David Freese can provide a full season.
I hope the Cardinals can add the pieces around Pujols and Holliday on a consistent basis, or we get a Bo Hart like explosion out of some of the youngsters over a full year. My biggest concern is if the money will be there for the pitching staff in a couple of years. Hopefully guys like Shelby Miller will alleviate some of the concerns down the road, and the Cardinals strike gold in the draft through the years.
So, what do you think the Cardinals should do? Should they resign Pujols, trade him, let him walk after this year, not decide until he reaches free agency?