Another (February) day, another article about free-agent-to-be Albert Pujols. This one comes from Buster Olney, who correctly notes that, should Pujols actually reach free agency, the Chicago Cubs – and particularly owners the Ricketts Family – will face extreme fan and media pressure to go after Pujols with both guns blazing. No offer will be considered too outrageously large – at least not for a few years.
And Olney suggests, as others have, that the Cubs are in the best position to actually land Pujols, if not the Cardinals.
But the pressure on the Chicago Cubs to go after Pujols will be similar to what was heaped on the Knicks and Cavaliers last summer, to the point that Tom Ricketts’ relatively young ownership of the club will be defined by how he handles his pursuit of Pujols. In fact, there may be more pressure on the Cubs to sign Pujols — to at least make a hard run at him — than there has been for any baseball franchise to pursue any player since the advent of free agency in 1976.
This is part of the reason some rival executives fully expect that the Cubs will be serious bidders for Pujols in the fall.
“They are in the best position to get him, if he’s willing to leave the Cardinals,” said one general manager. “The Red Sox and Yankees won’t be in it, and if the Cubs get him, it could hurt their [primary] rivals for years. They’re in a position to do serious damage to the Cardinals, because he’s such an icon there.”
I tend to think the sign-Pujols-’cause-it-hurts-the-Cards point of view is overdone; increasingly, beating the Cardinals is but 30% of the NL Central story. The Cubs will continue to have several other legitimate teams to contend with in the Central – not to mention the NL – so screwing the Cardinals by signing Pujols should be viewed as less about improving the Cubs’ chances and more about the metaphorical kick to the crotch. Enjoy it for what it is.