Thursday, February 10, 2011

Five Reasons Why the Cardinals Won't Sign Albert Pujols Before Spring Training

These are in no particular order, and as always, I'm just a fan like the rest of you. I'm not a paid sports journalist with inside information. I have been following the Cardinals since I was old enough to watch baseball, which was at the height of Lou Brock's career. Do I think Pujols will stay with the Cardinals? Yeah, I do, but I think if that happens, they'll have to sign him as a free agent, and here are the five reasons why I think that will happen.

1. Pujols wants a ten-year contract. That's just stupid. He'll be almost 42 at the end of that deal, and he's got a Dominican birth certificate, so he could really be 56. Name me one other hitter ever who hit .300/30 HR/100 RBI after age 38. By the way, in 1962 at age 41, his next-to-last year, Stan Musial hit .330 with 82 RBI and 19 homers. In Ted Williams' last year, 1960, at age 42, he hit .316 with 29 homers and 72 RBI. Great stats? Sure. $30 million worth? Not so sure.

2. The market value for lesser players is absurd. Stupid losers like the Cubs and the Red Sox (I said it) overpaid like crazy for mediocre talent, and Pujols agent wants Cardinals brass to join the stupid club. I think Cardinals brass is waiting for this year to prove how truly idiotic those contracts were, thus driving the market price for a Pujols free-agency downward after this season.

3. Bill DeWitt is a really rich white guy. Guess what? Rich white guys don't become rich by spending money foolishly. Okay, guys named "Bush" can, but Bill DeWitt didn't. $300 million over 10 years for a player already in his 30s smells like a bad investment. Let's be honest, most of metro St. Louis already owns a Pujols t-shirt; they're not going to make up a third of a billion dollars in merchandizing and ticket sales.

4. Pujols is a catastrophic injury waiting to happen. The guy is, to steal a phrase, "one tough Dominican," but let's not let emotion trump logic—he's had both knee problems and elbow problems—serious elbow problems—for 3-4 years now. Blown out knee? Out for a year, lesser player the next year (see "Brady, Tom"). Torn elbow ligament. Tommy John surgery. Out for a year-and-a-half. At $30 million a year, anything less than 130 games minimum is money lost.

5. Hope you like minor-league pitching. Because that's all you're going to see on the mound at Busch Stadium if this deal goes through. Chris Carpenter has maybe 2-3 good years left in him. Adam Wainwright is almost certainly a $25 million a year deal to make once his contract is up. Jake Westbrook and Kyle Lohse will both be gone in 2-4 years. Jaime Garcia, assuming he lives up to his first-year promise, will command at least $8-10 million a year when he's arbitration eligible. How can you re-sign or replace any of these guys when more than 40 percent of your payroll is going to Pujols and Holliday? Answer: you can't.

So there you have it. I think that GM John Mozeliak has a strict bottom line number of years and salary directly from DeWitt that he won't budge on. Pujols and his agent Dan Lozano have evidently decided that they can get $300 million for ten years from some sucker chump franchise like the Yankees or the Angels. Others have speculated that desperate clubs like the Cubs or even the Royals (Jeff Gordon, please...) might buck up for Albert. Tomorrow I'll write about why either of those scenarios are unlikely, which leads to the conclusion that the Cardinals are in a better position to negotiate later rather than sooner.

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