Apparently, discussions on a contract extension between Albert Pujols and the St. Louis Cardinals are not going well. It’s rumored that Pujols is looking for an Alex Rodriguez-like deal (or even more), a price tag that the Cardinals claim they cannot afford. Both sides have resorted to some posturing in the media, and it’s looking more and more likely that Pujols will end up testing the free agent market. If he does, what will he get?
There are two ways to try to answer that question. The first is to use the wisdom of the crowds, and that’s something I tried to do last year, asking THT readers to vote on what they thought Pujols’ contract ultimately would be. The median answer was something like eight years for $250 million.
The other method is to try to project what Pujols will do over the course of his contract, and assign a dollar value to that. Luckily for us, Oliver provides six-year projections for every player in THT Forecasts, Pujols included. Oliver thinks Pujols will be worth 6.8 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) in 2012, 6.2 in 2013, 5.6 in 2014, 4.9 in 2015, and 4.3 in 2016. It doesn’t give projections beyond that, but based on the aging curve through 2016, it seems safe to say that Pujols would lose about 0.6 wins in each additional season.
As for a dollar value, because Oliver sets its replacement level fairly high, I’ll use $5.5 million per win for 2011 (i.e. the current offseason rate) and inflate that by 5 percent for every season thereafter. Multiplying everything together, we find that a fair offer for Pujols would be $227 million for seven years or $247 million for eight. That matches exactly what our readers predicted, though you’ll have to trust me that I did not pre-select the numbers used to do that. Rather, the wisdom of the crowds works just that well. Eerily, a 10-year contract would imply an offer of $275 million, or the exact same deal that A-Rod got.
Ultimately, both the Cardinals and Pujols’ agents have surely run some similar numbers, and both sides know how much he would be worth on the free agent market. The question is, will Pujols be happy with a deal that pays him more per year but less in total than A-Rod? Or will he wait to test the free agent market to see if someone will offer him 10 years?