No Way Albert Pujols Leaves St. Louis Despite Contract Extension Deadline
St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols reportedly has set a Spring Training deadline for contract extension negotiations, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Without an extension, Pujols will become a free agent after this season. In either case, Pujols has the chance to become one of the highest paid players in baseball history — right up there with Alex Rodriguez.
Even if a deal isn’t done by the time Spring Training starts and Pujols ends up becoming a free agent, it seems likely that he will stay in St. Louis after this year. The most obvious teams — those willing to spend that kind of money — already have talented, high-paid first baseman. The Yankees and Red Sox have Mark Teixeira and Adrian Gonzalez respectively; the Phillies have Ryan Howard, and the Tigers have Miguel Cabrera. Just a few years ago the Mets would have been a possibility, but their owners lost money in the Bernie Madoff scandal and have tried to cut spending as a result.
Probably the most interesting scenario would have Pujols joining the Cardinals’ most bitter rival, the Cubs. After losing Derrek Lee last season, the Cubs definitely have a need at first, and nothing could add more heat to this rivalry than the Cubs’ signing of the face of St. Louis baseball over the past decade. I’ve never been to a game at Wrigley, but I saw nearly as many “f*** the Cubs”-type T-shirts at Busch Stadium as I saw shirts supporting the home team — and that was when the Cardinals were playing the Mets. The Cubs have shown a willingness to spend in the past, which is the reason they likely won’t be able to pay Pujols. They’ve got too much money committed to their current roster to add the type of salary Pujols is going to command, but I’m sure they’d be tempted.
Pujols is on his way to being one of the greatest players in baseball history and here at LBS we named him the No. 1 franchise player in baseball. In 10 full seasons he’s won three MVPs and finished second three more times. He’s never hit less than 32 home runs or driven in less than 103 runs. He’s a career .331 hitter. In the field he’s won two Gold Gloves at first base and has a career fielding percentage of .994.
Most importantly, Pujols is a leader, and he personifies Cardinals baseball. The Cardinals can afford to let him leave about as much as the Yankees could afford to let Jeter go. Pujols in a Cubs uniform would be like Jeter in a Red Sox uniform. The Cardinals may not get the extension done by Pujols’ deadline — though they should — but there is no way he leaves via free agency. They need him too badly and he seems too loyal to leave them for a few extra dollars. As long as they come close, he’ll do the right thing and stick with the city and the team that have been so good to him.