It has been widely reported that the Cardinals officially offered Albert Pujols a 9 year, $198 million contract in January of 2011. That would have made Pujols the second highest paid player in the history of MLB, second to only Alex Rodriguez, and $9 million more than the next highest contract given to Derek Jeter. Jeter received a 10 year, $189 million contract from the Yankees in 2001. Here are the top 6 contracts in MLB history, with the years they cover as well as how old the player was when they signed the contract:
- Rodriguez, age 32–$275,000,000 (2008-2017)
- Rodriguez, age 25–$252,000,000 (2001-2010)
- Jeter, age 27–$189,000,000 (2001-2010)
- Joe Mauer, age 28–$184,000,000 (2011-2018)
- Mark Teixeira, age 29–$180,000,000 (2009-2016)
- C.C. Sabathia, age 28–$161,000,000 (2009-2015)
As we all already know, the Yankees like to throw money around. While the Yankees didn’t give A-Rod his initial deal, they traded for him in 2004 by sending Alfonso Soriano to the Rangers, and took on A-Rods contract, and then extended it in 2008. The Rangers simply didn’t have enough money to fill out a team around A-Rod. The Rangers also paid $67 million to the Yankees on the $179 million left on A-Rods contract at the time. The Rangers stopped paying on the A-Rod deal in 2010, and have been to the World Series twice in two years since being done with A-Rod.
Of the players listed above, the only team to compete with the Yankees in handing out large amounts of cash was the Minnesota Twins in the Mauer deal. So far, that’s not working out very well at all. Getting back to A-Rod, since turning 32, he has missed 151 games in 4 years, about 38 games a year. Since hitting 54 HR’s at age 31 in 2007, A-Rod HR totals went to 35, 30, 30 and 16.
I’m not really going to get into more comparisons today except for Teixeira, as they will follow in the coming weeks. I just wanted to give a quick glance, and then move on from there. Pujols is clearly a better player than Teixeira, so that’s not the problem. The problem is that Teixeira’s contract will be up when he’s 36. If the Cards give this deal to Pujols, he will be 41 at the end of it. It’s all about timing, and Albert Pujols made a decision in 2004 that put him in the position he’s in now. The other way I want to bring Tex into this is because he and Pujols both play first base. What no one seems to be talking about is that Jeter and A-Rod played premium defensive positions, and I don’t think you can just throw that out of the mix.
In 2004, the Cardinals gave Pujols a 7 year deal for $100 million and an option for 2011 for $16 million. The Cardinals picked up the option, and Pujols traded in some uncertainties for the contract at the time. The Cardinals took a gamble that paid off, and yes, relevant to what others have made, Pujols has been underpaid in his time as a Cardinal. That’s not the Cardinals fault though, and I don’t know why some insist on the Cardinals making up for a mistake that they never made. Both sides took a gamble, and the Cardinals got the best of the deal. But it seems there are those out there who feel like Pujols is living out of a cardboard box. In the end, he’s going to easily make over $300 million in his career.
It’s not the Cardinals fault that they don’t have to compete with the Yankees and Red Sox for Pujols services this offseason. Pujols could have turned down the deal in 2004 and made more money, but he didn’t. He took the smart, sure thing. Timing for his services now must seem like a bitch to Dan Lozano and Pujols, but that’s just the way it is. I think the Cards would be a better team with Pujols for the next 3-4 years, but after that, Pujols will decline like all others did before steroids.
Getting to my point now, I think it’s time the Cardinals put a deadline on the deal for Pujols. I’m not saying tomorrow or the next day. However, I don’t think the Cards should allow Pujols and Lozano to let this thing play out as long as they want. The market may heat up at the winter meetings next week, and the offers may start to roll in, but at this time I really don’t think anyone is going to top the Cards offer. The Cards need to prepare for 2012 and beyond, and they need time to get moving on alternative plans to upgrade other positions if Pujols continues to balk at the offer. I would say somewhere in January would be fair to both sides.
The other thing here is the problem with the words from Pujols himself. He can’t have it both ways. I’d rather he wouldn’t say things like it’s not all about the money, it’s about being on a competitive team. You can’t say you want to be a Cardinal for the rest of your career and then try to use the Cubs as leverage. If no team tops the Cards offer and he comes back, Lozano and Pujols will try to spin it in a way that it wasn’t about the money. I’m sure a lot of fans will buy that. I’m not one of them. The only reason Pujols is not a Cardinal currently is because of money, and there’s really no other way to spin it. Pujols has earned every right to be a free agent, but at least have the balls to say that it is only about the money like Lance Berkman and Prince Fielder. As far as being competitive, it’s hard to find a team that’s been more successful than the Cardinals since 2004. The Red Sox are in there, but they have Adrian Gonzalez.
If the Cardinals bring Pujols back and pay him, it will be for past performance. Pujols isn’t going to come close to putting up the same numbers in the second half of his career as his first half. He’s going to get twice the money either way, just hopefully not with the Cards.
The Cardinals will win in the future with or without Pujols. I think they have a better chance to win without the aging slugger. The easiest position to fill in MLB is at 1st base. For those of you who say if I were the GM I would have traded Babe Ruth back in the day, you’re out of your element. First of all, Babe Ruth was sent to the Yankees when he was 24, not 32. Second, please, and I mean please, stop comparing Ruth to Pujols. There’s no comparison. If you want to go with Jimmie Foxx, I’m all ears, but not Ruth.
If the Cardinals end up re-signing Pujols, they are going to have to be Nostradamus in the draft for years to come to put a competitive team around him. I really don’t understand why so many want the Cards to hamstring themselves with a contract to Pujols that they know will not be lived up to. After watching the 60 minutes piece with Pujols again, it’s clear that he has a lot on pent up aggression about being a 13th round pick. He can’t seem to get over it, and while not saying it directly, he seems to imply that the Cardinals are as much at fault as the other 29 teams who didn’t select him. How many more rounds would he have fallen if the Cards hadn’t taken the chance on him is anyone’s guess, but if Pujols is going to be grateful to anyone, shouldn’t it be the Cardinals for taking that chance.
On a final note to the St. Louis Cardinals sign man, I want to tell you I like a lot of your signs. The one you held up in the playoffs was, “If you sign him, we will come.” Are you saying that if the Cards don’t sign Pujols, fans won’t come? I think if the Cards are competitive the stadium will continue to draw 3 million plus, but I have a hard time believing fans are going to pack the house from 2015-2020 if the Cards can’t put a team around Pujols and his contract. Maybe you didn’t get the memo that the Cards were only in contention in the end of season because they filled holes in the defense and pitching that they will be unable to do in the future if they have 40% of the payroll tied up in 1B and LF. But hey, as long as you and your part of the fan base get to see the milestones that you think Pujols is going to automatically break, I guess you’ll be happy. After all, the name on the back is more important than the name on the front, right?