The impact of MLB’s spending spree on Albert Pujols and the St. Louis Cardinals, Part 3

This will be my final opinions on the Albert Pujols contract situation until something significant happens.  The Post-Dispatch reported yesterday that the representative for Albert Pujols, Dan Lozano, met with the Cardinals brass for the second time in three days on Wednesday.  John Mozeliak described the next two months as ideal to push for an extension, and stated that the team hopes to sign Pujols to a lifetime contract.  Like I’ve stated in Part 1 and 2, I think the Cardinals are going to be in trouble as far as competing if they resign him.  I’m basing that on the fact that I think the most the Cardinals will offer is 8 years and $200 million.

It seems like most writers are saying that Pujols is worth way more than that.  Based on baseball standards that the Yankees and Red Sox have set and are continuing to set, the writers are right.  But some key facts are being left out by writers who do not have the same interest that we do as fans of the Cardinals.  My main concern is not whether or not Albert Pujols cements himself as the greatest Cardinal of all-time.  Yes, it would be nice to possibly say in the future that the greatest player of all-time was always a member of the St. Louis Cardinals, I got to watch him play in a Cardinals uniform for 20 years, and it’s not really an argument.  My main concern is whether the Cardinals can field a winning team over the next 10 years. 

Again, I’m in no way trying to bash Pujols, I think he’s amazing and clearly the best all around player in MLB.  I also take pride in thinking that he is putting up these numbers while not using performance enhancing drugs, more specifically steroids or HGH.  If he has, you would have to think that a Cubs writer would have done enough digging to find out.  Also, to my knowledge, his feet and head size haven’t doubled.  Pujols has been consistent in all areas of his game, and in my opinion, is greater every year more than his stats show.  I say that because there’s no way he can ever sneak a single at bat upon any pitcher, and the adjustments that he has to make from year to year, series to series and game to game  is impressive to say the least.

I wish the Cardinals could raise their payroll to $150 million, and they might 10 years from now, but it’s hard to see them going above $115-120 million any time in the near future.  The Cards owners are not going to continue to operate without making money.  As Jeff Gordon pointed out the other day in “Can Cards keep payoffs (and playoffs) coming?” Forbes says that the Cardinals made $13 million in profit in 2010.  As a reference, Forbes says the Red Sox made $40 million in profit in 2010, while the Yankees made $25 million in profit.  The Cardinals ranked 4th in MLB for attendance in 2010.  The Cards drew 3,301,218 fans per MLB attendance report-2010 from ESPN.  The only teams ahead of the Cardinals were the Yankees, Phillies and Dodgers.

It’s hard to see the Cardinals attendance going much higher than that, as 2007 was the highest attendance total ever for the Cardinals, drawing 3,552,166 fans that year.  So if the attendance isn’t going much higher, and the Cardinals made $13 million with Pujols in 2010 and were in the race for most of the year, it makes it hard to see them paying him anywhere close to $30 million a year.  Pujols will make $16 million in 2011, so if the Cardinals paid him $30 million in 2012 (probably in 2011 if they sign him before this season) and all other things are equal, the Cardinals would probably come close to breaking even.  I know the owners real money will be when they sell the team, but I’m not so sure they are going to look at it that way.

So, I want to go back to the things that most writers are leaving out.  First, Pujols has made more money in his first 10 years than any player in the history of MLB not named Derek Jeter.  Per baseball-reference.com, Derek Jeter made $97,430,000 in his first 10 years.  Albert Pujols is next at $89,532,041 in his first 10 years. A-Rod is next at $78,027,000 in his first 10 years.  When Mark Teixeira hits his 10 year mark, he will have made $121,150,000.  At the end of his contract, Teixeira will be 36 years old and have made $211,150,000.  It’s likely he won’t make close to $300 million, and I think you would have to put Teixeira as the next best 1st baseman in MLB, in terms as both a complete and consistent player at the position.  If you just want to go with offense, you could say Miguel Cabrera is the most consistent player at the position next to Pujols, although Cabrera has only been at first base since 2008.

When Cabrera hits his 10 year mark in 2012, he will have made $95,410,623.  Albert Pujols is 6th among Cabrera’s most similar batters through the age of 27, with Mickey Mantle 5th and Orlando Cepeda 7th.

We all know that Pujols is the best player in the game.  I do wonder, however, if we shouldn’t be comparing Pujols to other 1st basemen instead of to the contract that A-Rod received.  I don’t want to touch too much on this subject, but the fact is that A-Rod and Jeter play more difficult positions on defense.  Jeter doesn’t play it well, but that’s another story about why The Gold Glove is Dead over at Cardinals Diaspora

My only point with this is that if the Cardinals pay Pujols big bucks, they are going to have 40-45 percent of the payroll tied up in 1B and LF.  Matt Holliday and Albert Pujols may make the best 1-2 punch offensively in MLB, so maybe it negates that in the mind of most people.  I always thought the Cardinals having money tied up in Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen made a lot of sense because of them both being two way threats at premium positions defensively.   I don’t think you can look at the recent contracts of Jason Werth and Carl Crawford and not factor defense and speed into it.  While Crawford plays LF, has tremendous speed and range, and would probably play CF for most teams.  Jason Werth has a great OF arm, and has a nice blend of power and speed.  Werth’s contract does make the contract Holliday signed look pretty good I think, but as I said in Part 1, the Nationals have to start adding pieces.

Another thing being touched on, but not enough, is the fact that the Red Sox and Yankees both have gold glove first baseman locked up to huge contracts, and I can’t see either Mark Teixeira or Adrian Gonzalez being used as a DH.  If those 2 teams aren’t in the bidding, and you know that for sure, then there’s no way the market for Pujols should be close to A-Rod money.  Also, the Phillies are set with Ryan Howard, the Angels have Kendry Morales, the Twins have Justin Morneau, the White Sox have both Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn, the Mets have youngster Ike Davis, the Tigers have Miguel Cabrera, and the Giants just inked Aubrey Huff to a 3-year deal.

Now if the Yankees missed out on the playoffs altogether next year, I could see them having to make a huge splash and worry about whether Teixeira or Pujols was the DH at a later date.  I see a lot of people talking about the Cubs, but I think Albert would have to know want kind of a PR hit that would be.  Maybe I’m completely wrong on that, but if I were the Cardinals and that was brought up, wouldn’t you stop all negotiations at that point?  I’ll use this comment from Albert as my point, as well as factor in once again the comments from Jayson Stark.  When Albert came out to the press about the rumor of Colby Rasmus wanting to be traded, he said:

“It’s a privilege to play in this organization, just behind the Yankees with 10 World Series (titles) and be able to be in the postseason almost every year,” Pujols said. “I have nothing negative to say about this organization.”

If you take those comments from AP, combine them with the fact that he said winning is the main thing, then it should be easy to deduce that aside from the Yankees, the Cardinals are 2nd on his list of giving him the chance at what’s most important.  It also takes Jayson Stark’s comments about honor and shows he should have done a little more digging.  That’s my opinion anyway.  No if the Cardinals offer him Ryan Howard’s contract, I wouldn’t blame him for walking away.  He should be paid, but in his own words again, money isn’t everything.

To sum up my feelings, I would like to see the Cardinals work something out with Pujols only if they think it gives them a chance to compete and doesn’t hamstring the organization with players like Adam Wainwright, Colby Rasmus, and others in the future.  I think 8 years and $200 million is a fair offer.  It will make him, when adding his first contract, the highest paid 1B of all-time, and only second to A-Rod overall.  Pujols is now on the wrong side of 30, and expecting him to keep the pace up for another 8-10 years is beyond optimistic.  It allows AP to stay with the Cardinals and probably destroy Musial’s HR club record, but also come close to his 3630 hits.  My main thing is that I’m a Cards fan first, so whatever makes the best since for the Cards to compete every year, and by that I mean making the playoffs and winning another WS or two during this time.

It appears to me the Dodgers and Angels could be the best competition for Albert if winning is as big a factor as he says it is.  James Loney looks to me like an offensive Keith Hernandez, and that just doesn’t fly long term as 1st baseman these days.  The Dodgers have a lot of things that would be attractive to Pujols, such as a lot of Latino support, a big pocketbook and a winning tradition.  The Angels just missed out on Carl Crawford, and while they have Kendry Morales, they also have money and the DH.  They have become very successful in the last 10 years under Mike Soscia, making the playoffs 6 times in the last 10 years, the same as the Cardinals.  They also won a WS in that time frame, also the same as the Cardinals.

My final thought is this.  Matt Holliday is going to be playing for the Cardinals for $17 million a year for the next 7 years with the Cards.  This year, Holliday had 186 hits, 28 HR’s, 103 RBI’s, a .312 AVG, a .390 OBP and an OPS of .922.  For Albert’s best years for each category, he had 212 hits in 2003, 49 HR’s in 2006, 137 RBI’s in 2006, a .359 AVG in 2003, a .462 OBP in 2008 and a OPS of 1.114 in 2008.  So, if Pujols makes $34 million from someone in 2012, would you rather have his numbers at 1B or Holliday’s numbers spread out among two players?  It’s seems simple and noteworthy to me, because what’s really important is if you want your $34 million to go towards 372 hits or 212 hits?  If Pujols signs for that kind of money, it makes no sense for the Cardinals to do it.  It also makes it near impossible for the Cardinals to contend if he’s injured, either for a year or career.  If Pujols has a Bo Jackson or Albert Belle injury, the Cardinals are sunk for however many years the contract covered, giving them no money to replace him with, and the years of Matt Holliday, Adam Wainwright and others will be all for nothing.  It would literally be like the Cardinals trimming payroll every year by the amount Pujols is paid.

Jack’s Take

For one last thing related to Pujols from someone else, I want to introduce everyone to the gentlemen in the picture, Jack LaRose.  As you can see from the photo, Jack is an avid hunter and Cards fan, as this picture was taken in his impressive “Man Room.”  So, from here on out, I will be adding a section to many articles called “Jack’s Take”

For a little about Jack, as Forrest Gump would say, he’s my best good friend.  He is also a get to the point kind of man.  It’s always refreshing to have a friend like that in your life.  Jack’s been around long enough to see a lot of Cardinal baseball, growing up with Musial, Gibson, Brock, Cepeda and Schoendienst.   His favorite Cardinal since President Ronald Reagan is Scott Rolen, while his favorite pitcher is Bruce Sutter. Jack prefers Whitey over Tony.  Jack is hardnosed, straight to the point and old school.  So, without further delay here is “Jack’s Take” on Albert Pujols:

“Pujols needs to accept that he’s made a lot of money and will make millions more by staying with the Cardinals.  While it might not be top dollar, if he wants to compete with the Cardinals, he knows he needs players around him and they have a budget.  The only way that’s going to happen is to take a little less in his next contract to remain in Baseball Heaven.  I hope he signs and he’s not just another greedy player where the decision is based on money alone.  I think he’s a genuine man, and would like to see him remain a Cardinal.  I think the Cardinals should give him $20 million a year plus 3-5% ownership, cementing his life in baseball as forever a Cardinal.  If he leaves, the Cardinals won 9 World Series before him, and will win plenty more without him.”

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