The surge of non-information around the Albert Pujols contract negotiations is hardly interesting. Both parties have upheld their stance on keeping quiet about the progress (or lack thereof) of negotiations. Let’s face it, it’s all rather boring. But with a little outside the box thinking, there are a few possibilities no one mentions.
Think of a fur coat for a moment: It’s winter, and, being female, I know there’s nothing better than a fur coat to keep you warm. They are the most expensive coats available, but there are stores that sell top-of-the-line fur coats at a discounted price. They are rare and hard to find, but if you know what you’re looking for you can snag one at Neiman Marcus for 25 percent off what fur coats are currently worth.
Many people have said they don’t understand why the Cardinals ownership didn’t get the Pujols contract done before now. They knew this was coming—why would they wait this long? Jayson Stark of ESPN wrote this on Dec. 8:
So the more you reflect on this, the harder it is to believe that this team has let this situation hang there, unexplored, for so long.
How could the Cardinals let Pujols get this close to free agency without making a serious effort to get this deal done already?
Maybe that is the point. The Cardinals have Pujols backed into a corner. Huh? Right now we know one thing: Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt will not pay more than he can “afford” for Pujols just to keep him. He wants a winning ball club.
Again from Stark, Dec. 8:
“Every team has financial limitations,” Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt told the St. Louis Post Dispatch this week. “I don’t care what team you name. They have them. It’s a process where you have to evaluate the value of a player given the ability to still field an effective, competitive club.
“Those are always the tradeoffs,” DeWitt went on. “It’s not, ‘I don’t want to give you X dollars because you don’t deserve it.’ It’s, ‘I’ve got so much money I can afford and have a competitive team.’ And you’ve got to put all those pieces together.”
It’s also been reported that the Cardinals have no intention of giving Pujols a contract better than Alex Rodriguez‘s. If that is true there are only two options for Pujols.
If he signs now he will be getting less than he would if he hit the free agent market. We know the Cardinals ownership will buy a fur coat at a discounted price. They are not the New York Yankees—New York can buy fur coats at Neiman Marcus. St. Louis has a ball club that consistently gets deals on authentic fur coats.* The Cardinals have consistently said that’s what they must do to keep a winning team on the field.
If Pujols doesn’t sign now he is running just as much risk as the Cardinals. He’s established already that he is the best player in the game today; he doesn’t need another year to prove anything. It’s hard to think of Pujols having a down year, so we won’t. But heaven forbid he gets injured. Sure, no one should live life being paranoid, and it probably won’t happen, but is it a possibility? The reality is anything can happen and reality plays into the minds of everyone when you make a huge decision.
So, they’ve backed him into a corner—and one thing we’ve never seen is what Pujols will do backed into a corner. Unless breaking news happens in the next few days and weeks, if you’re in St. Louis take a gamble with the Cardinals. Grab your tickets for the 2011 baseball season. You’ll either see one hell of a record-breaking year, with a baseball god proving his point, and confirming his worth and saying goodbye to Cardinal nation or you’ll weep for what could have been.
*In recent years, of course, there are those contracts that were way too much money and haven’t worked out (insert Kyle Lohse here). And there is one exception in the last few years in which the Cardinals departed from getting a marquee ballplayer at a discount (insert Matt Holliday here).