What Cliff Lee signing in Philly might mean for Albert Pujols and the St. Louis Cardinals

This article is based on the opinion that I conjured up in my mind the other day.  I’ll let you decide if it has any value.  When I did my 3 parts of Albert Pujols, I noted that while the Yankees probably have the best all around first baseman not named Albert Pujols in Mark Teixeira, there could be a situation in which they still go after him.  My thought at the time was that Boston was gearing up in a big way, and that if Cliff Lee signed elsewhere and the Yankees faded in 2011, they may need to make a big splash next offseason, and what bigger splash could be made than getting Albert Pujols.

A couple of things changed my mind on that.  One was that Tampa Bay has now let go of Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena and Jason Bartlett.  There are also rumors that Matt Garza may be on the move.  That almost guarantees that the Yanks and Sox dominate in the AL East in 1st and 2nd place.  On paper now, it looks as if the AL East will feature Boston at the top, with the Yankees grabbing the wild card.    The offensive upgrades the Red Sox have made are off the charts, not to mention both Gonzalez and Crawford are exceptional defensive players.  When look at their overall offense and defense now, and factor in their pitching staff, they look tough to stop.  Josh Beckett had a terrible year which he should easily outperform.  Combine him with Lackey, Lester, Buckholtz and Matsuzaka, and they look tough on paper.  Over a 162 games, and with the Rays fading, the Yanks and Sox should finish 1st and 2nd in some order.

For the Yankees, anything other than a World Series win is seen as a failure of a season.  The bar is set higher than any other team by far.  If you consider that, along with the factors I will bring up next, I can now see why the Yankees may go all out for Albert Pujols.

One of these things is the fact that Mark Teixeira injured his hamstring in the playoffs in 2010.  He may recover from that, but with the luxury of the DH and possible lingering issues, it could open the door for Pujols.  My next reason is what if the Yankees are overtaken by the Red Sox, and possibly another wild card team where they don’t make it at all to the postseason in 2011.  What if Andy Pettitte really does retire?  Most importantly, I think is the “what have you done for me lately attitude,” which exist in New York more than any other city in my opinion.

I really can now see the Yankees as a player for Pujols if these things happen.   The Yankees are one of the few teams that can make Pujols the highest paid player in the game, and would put Pujols in the perfect situation of what he says is most important for him.  That one thing is winning.  A lot of this will depend on what happens in the next few months, and hopefully the Cardinals can sign Albert in a way that allows them to continue to add pieces around him and be in the hunt most years.  As I’ve previously made clear, I don’t want the Cardinals to resign Pujols and have trouble competing because of the amount of money that doesn’t offer flexibility over the life of his contract.

I went over to a few Yankees chat boards, and they are going crazy about Lee signing with the Phillies.  Maybe the Cardinals win it all in 2011, and Albert is confident in repeat performances to the playoffs.  Before today, it looked as if the Cardinals had the best rotation in the NL if Lohse comes back to 2008 form that Dave Duncan thinks is a real possibility.  There’s no way to say that the Phillies starting 5 can be compared to with the addition of Lee.  I’m guessing their rotation will by Halladay, Lee, Oswalt, Hamels and Blanton, in that order.  They are now the NL’s version of the evil empire.

I’m just starting to wonder if the Lee signing can hurt the Cardinals in more ways than one.  One, it’s going to take a lot to get by the Phillies in the next few years in playoffs, the Yankees have been embarrassed by the moves the Red Sox have made and have missed their biggest countermove in Lee, and they need to make a statement to  their fans.

In a best case scenario, the Yankees win the division and the AL, and play the Cards in the 2011 WS, with the Cards winning.  I’m not sure that Teixeira could play in LF, but I wouldn’t put it past the Yanks to give it a shot.  Also, the Yanks have the luxury of the DH.  I’m probably over thinking this a bit, but Cliff Lee signing with the Phillies might change what happens to Pujols.

I’ve talked about how refreshing it would be for a player to take less money.  While that was directed at Pujols since he’s the one looming and most important to us as fans, Cliff Lee just turned down $54 million to go back to the Phillies.  I just hope this doesn’t hurt the Cardinals in more than the competition they will now have advancing to the World Series.

I can see a situation where eventually the AL wild card team comes from some other division than the AL East.  However, it doesn’t seem likely to happen next year.  Maybe Texas will stay strong and the Angels will also return to AL West dominance.  Maybe both the Twins and White Sox win over 95 games as well.   It would be good for baseball, but not for the Cardinals if that happens next year.  So, let’s all hope Teixeira remains the starter at first with no setbacks from his hamstring, and Yankees move on to the WS, and Pujols and the Cardinals find a way to meet them there.

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