I was surprised at how many breathless e-mails, texts and IM’s I got yesterday over Albert Pujols and his comments on his pending contract negotiations.
They ranged from panicked to complete confidence and everywhere in between. But I think Bernie in his 5 Minutes blog summarized Pujols’ Winter Warm-Up press conference the best.
Paraphrasing, he says that Albert pretty much gave everybody a little something to chew on. If you believe that he’d never leave St. Louis? He said he wants to be a life-long Cardinal. You think he’s out of here? He said he’d play for another team and that hometown discounts weren’t applicable.
The bottom line, though? The Cardinals made one of the best gambles of all-time in any sport by giving a 3 year veteran a 100+million dollar contract that turned out to be an incredible bargain. Remember back when that was singed- we all hoped he was worth it. Turns out he was worth about double, if not triple.
Now 10 years in, this is AP’s contract. The one that sets him, his kids and his grandkids up for whatever they want. And he’s going to get what he can from the Cardinals.
At times, this is going to get uncomfortable. It always does in negotiations. But I do believe, that deep down, Albert does want to stay in St. Louis… BUT… the Cardinals are going to have to pay him fair value.
Determining fair value in a once in a lifetime player is another story. The bigger problem, as I see it, is the timeline on how this whole thing could play out. Pujols has stated that he will not negotiate this upcoming season. So between now and the end of 2010, there are about 2 to 2.5 months of total time to get a deal done before the calendar turns over to 2011— the last year of the contract.
Considering that Pujols has a full no-trade clause after 10 years of MLB service and 6 continuous years on the same team, that sound you heard was leverage bitch slapping Bill DeWitt right in the face and leaving Busch Stadium.
So now it’s 2011 and you’ve got another 3 months or so to either find a trade partner (not happening since his value is so high and teams do not give up blue chip prospects for guys not in favorable long-term deals. Plus you’d be the GM that traded Pujols in his prime?) or sign him to an extension.
The end of the 2011 season seems like a while away. And it is. But if Pujols is serious about not negotiating in-season, then realistically you’re looking about 6 months of time total to get a pact done. Take in to account the fact that AP usually has some year-end maintenance on his body done coupled with a trip to the Dominican Republic for his charity and now you’re talking more like 5 months.
5 months to hammer out the biggest contract in MLB history?
Maybe. We’re not privy to what Albert’s goal is with all this. What we do know is this- The Cardinals are the ones with all the pressure on them. Because I’m not sure I can support a team that lets this guy go.