Why would Pujols strike a deal now?

Over at Circling the Bases, Craig Calcaterra speculates on negotiations between Albert Pujols and the St. Louis Cardinals. I just don’t understand why. I suppose negotiating an extension this offseason makes some sense; it would probably be Albert’s last giant contract, and getting it inked soon mitigates the risk of catastrophic injury. Also, it gives the Cardinals cost-certainty going forward. The Cardinals won’t like paying two players about $45 million a year, but at least they’ll know what they have to play with.

It’s the timing that confuses me, and it mostly has to do with our buddy Joe Mauer. Why would the only player in baseball justified in asking for more money than Mauer not wait for Mauer to set the market? Pujols has every reason to ask for more money–I don’t need to spill any digital ink describing just how insanely awesome he is. If Mauer has a chance to become the best catcher ever, Pujols has a chance to be regarded as the best player ever, barring injury or an age adjustment or that other thing I’m not even going to talk about. So why not wait?

Now, between the Longoria and Mauer pieces, I don’t think I can say I’m anything less than an advocate for player greed. It’s entirely possible that Pujols doesn’t really care about every last dime.

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  1. MikeS said...

    You may ahve hit the nail on the head with the last sentence.  I don’t know about you, but my life would be no different if I made $20 million or $30 million every year in my 30’s.  I could have retired at 40 and lived out my days without worrying about money.  Even if I hadn’t already made nearly $75 million.  heck, just put $100 million in a passbook, collect 1% interest and live off a cool million a year.

    At some point, it’s more about keeping score than living comfortably and not everybody (even hypercompetitive athletes) cares about that.

    Just a side note.  ujols was drafted in the 13th round in 1999.  Players taken in the first round that year have hit 414 HR.  Pujols is closing fast at 366.  Simply anmazing.

  2. Danny said...

    Mauer the best catcher ever? He’s not even the best catcher currently. Yadier Molina is the best in the league. I realize Mauer is a better hitter than Yadi, but you said “the best catcher.” Even if you factor in hitting, there are too many great catchers from the past for Mauer to be considered the best ever.

  3. Mike said...

    If I’m Pujols, I hold out to beat ARod’s AAV, say 6 year 195 Million, or 7 year 225 million. But I guess I would be a very greedy player smile

  4. Nick Steiner said...

    Pujols doesn’t care about the money.  By that I mean he doesn’t care if he makes 180 million or 200 million.  He’s said over and over again he cares more about winning.  If the Cardinals have told him that negotiating a contract earlier would allow the team to have more flexibility in the near future towards winning, he would probably do it.

  5. jw said...


    While I appreciate that Pujols may very well mean it when he says he doesn’t care about money, just about winning, who in baseball would ever openly admit to anything different?  We can only look at their actions, not their words.  I certainly hope it’s true and Pujols stays a Cardinal for life and stays the hell away from the AL East, for the sake of my Jays smile.

  6. jw said...

    I suppose anyone who is represented by Scott Boras has basically admitted they care more about money than winning.  Sorry, I take that statement back.

  7. Nick Steiner said...

    There is a difference between not caring about the money, and not caring about whether you get 180 million or 200 million.

    Call me a fanboy, but Pujols has very strong roots in St. Louis.  His whole family lives that, he rigorously supports an MLS soccer team expansion there and I think has donated a lot of money for that cause.  Hell he even owns a restaurant there.

    I absolutely can’t see Pujols leaving St. Louis over 20-30 million.  Especially given the Cardinals recent success, and the fact that they have gone for it by signing Matt Holliday.

  8. The A Team said...

    There’s an entire angle that’s being missed here.  It has nothing to do with caring about the money, it’s how much he cares about championships.  A player of Pujols or Mauer caliber has consider incentive to take a well-compensated, below market contract.  While they make more money than they can really comprehend, they also give their club a little extra flexibility to field winners around them.  When you’re committed to playing with a team for the next 10 years, you want them to field talent around you, not just slop because you’re taking up 1/3 of the payroll.

    The Patriots have been succeeding with this model for years now and it looks to me that the Yankees and Red Sox are trying to do their best impersonations (even if they’re less obvious than the Pats).  To give a player anecdote, do you really think Roy Halladay signed at sub-market with the Phillies just because they train for 2 month 5 miles from his home?

  9. The A Team said...

    consider = considerable

    The key term I left out above is “intrinsic value”.  The roster construction around the player has intrinsic value to the player so that the marginal gain of 25 million compared to 20 million for the player might be less than the marginal loss of 5 million spent on better complementary personnel.

  10. Josh Fisher said...

    The A Team—

    There’s another factor in play, too: MLBPA pressure on players of the Mauer/Pujols level NOT to take sweetheart deals to help the club sign other players.

  11. The A Team said...

    But how effective is that pressure really? Maybe I’m thinking about it too much from my perspective, but it seems logical to me that the self-interested player should be much more concerned about the financial viability of a franchise he’s about to sign with for 10 years than the pseudo-plight of underpaid, but still well compensated players.  At that talent level, I might be wondering what the player’s union is even doing for me (unless of course I really didn’t want to depicted as a large, sluggly, white Giant named Jon Dowd in an MLBPA licensed video game).

    Additionally, players that become franchise icons tend to find employment in those franchises down the road in coaching, scouting, or something more cushy.

  12. Sky said...

    There’s a chance Mauer gives the Twins a significant (but not outlandish) hometown discount, meaning he sets the market at a lower rate than Pujols would like in order to maximize his payday.

    Or maybe Pujols thinks the $$/win rate for free agents will continue to go down.

  13. Kenny said...

    Danny, your argument contains a logical fallacy: “There are too many great catchers from the past for Mauer to be considered the best ever.” If that’s true, then when those catchers played, the same could be said about the legends before them.

    In five full seasons, Mauer has three batting titles, three all-star game appearances, three Silver Sluggers, two Gold Gloves, and an MVP.

    If you want to deride those statistics for not being sabermetrically-inclined, his career OPS is almost .900, he’s walked more times than he’s struck out over his career, and he’s averaged more than 5 WAR per year in the five full seasons he’s played (with the generic catcher adjustment for defense, which doesn’t account for his supposedly superb play behind the plate).

  14. Quylyn said...

    Why would he not want to wait for Mauer to set the market?

    Maybe because Mauer might set the market too low.  He wants to stay in Minnesota, and he’s not a free agent, so there won’t be a bidding war.

    Maybe he wants to sign while the most recent comp in the minds of the Cardinals’ front office is the huge contract they gave to Holliday, a guy who isn’t nearly as good as Pujols.

  15. Paul said...

    Loving the contract thoughts Josh.

    A disingenious take on the Pujols contract is that he wants to make a deal now (voiding 2010 & 2011) so that he remains the top paid player on his team.

    However good a guy Albert is, it must be slightly galling to be paid less than Holliday (who is one of my more favourite players)

  16. D Leaberry said...

    If the American economy double dips or is semi-permanently in decline, Pujols might be wise to get his contract done sooner rather than later.

  17. Jason B said...

    Did someone say Yadier Molina is the best catcher in the majors?  What part of St. Louis does he live in, and/or can I have some of what he’s smoking?

    (It’s so, so hard to straddle the line between ‘contrarian’ and ‘wrong’.)

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