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Before the 2011 season, the St. Louis Cardinals made what they believed to be an ample offer to their soon-to-be free agent first baseman, Albert Pujols. Reports varied slightly, but the offer was believed to be in the nine-year, $200 million range. The Pujols camp liked the length of the deal (which would take Pujols into his 40s), but not the average annual value, which was just in the $22 to $22.5 million area.

Pujols and his agent blanched, believing his deal should be much closer to the 10-year, $275 million extension that Alex Rodriguez got from the Yankees before the 2008 season (which, you should note, was a slightly different animal because Rodriguez was already under contract through 2010, so the “10-year deal” was really more of a seven-year deal, which re-worked the final three years of his original massive contract).

Now that the season is winding down, and the Cardinals appear unmoved by negotiating in the face of a playoff chase (the team just extended Lance Berkman for $12 million in 2012 (yo)), the two sides are likely to begin discussing the extension again. But, according to Joe Strauss, the Cardinals aren’t quite ready to back up the truck.

Mozeliak stated this summer that the club considers upcoming talks “independent” of last winter’s abortive negotiations. The Cardinals then offered a nine-year deal worth $22 million-$22.5 million per season. Pujols and his representation thought the gulf immense.

The club is currently inclined to remain within that framework, even tightening its length while remaining around the same average annual value. Such a tactic assumes at least one of two realities: Last winter’s bid would stretch payroll to its limit, or they believe Pujols’ market overstated until further notice.

The Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Angels, Texas Rangers, Florida Marlins and Washington Nationals are frequently cited as potential bidders for Pujols. The Cards, wary of bidding against themselves, are not inclined to offer another bid until they know their competition.

If the Cardinals kept the annual dollar value of their offer the same, while reducing the years below nine, they might have to kiss Pujols goodbye. While he may not find an offer exceeding eight years on the open market, it’s hard to imagine a team not being willing to offer him something on the order of five years and $150 million, or eight years and $200 million.

Whether the Cubs will enter the bidding, regardless of the Cardinals’ offer, remains to be seen. The chosen GM will have a great deal to do with the decision, but it is hard to imagine the Cubs, in their current state, being competitive in the near term even with Pujols (unless the budget goes up considerably in 2012 and 2013). You sign a guy like Pujols to a huge, long deal because you want his production in the next three years or so, before the inevitable decline of aging sets in. Is that really the Cubs’ best competitive window? I’m not sure.

Whatever the case, it is hard to see Pujols playing anywhere other than St. Louis next year, and even harder not to see whatever team he ends up with not regretting the deal in 2015 through 2018.

  • Mike Foster

    …Cue the Alfonso Soriano music…”and even harder not to see whatever team he ends up with not regretting the deal in 2015 through 2018.”, nicely put Brett. Nothing would make me feel better than for Albert to stay in St. Louis, and eat up all their extra cash. LOL.

  • RY

    Pujols will be a Cardinal for life.

  • Nebraska Cubs

    I think it will be VERY interesting how the Cubs will look next year. I don’t think the Cards think they will get Albert, especially after the signing of Berkman for another year. He isn’t a OF so I really think the signing is for him to play 1B. Go get Albert Cubs.

  • CubFan Paul

    If Albert wants the length of an A-Rod contract he absolutely go to the American League, and probably to the Angels. The Cards know this and when they gave Berkman $12million it wasnt to put a 36yr old in the outfield next year. They’ve already started prepping for life without Pujols ..if only the Cubs had a GM now to mnake decisions for the future

  • Wilbur

    Living down here in Cardinal territory I hear a lot of Cardinal talk about this issue, plus Pujols stories have been in the press constantly. Based on what I see and have heard over the last ten years I just can’t see Pujols ever being a Cub, even if the Cardinals get him angry enough to leave. The swing in allegiance from a Card to a Cub would be just too great for his personality and sense of loyalty.

    However, if the Cards ever push him into that “they didn’t respect me” mentality I easily could see him taking money roughly comparable to any Card offer to go to Boston to replace Ortiz or the Angels or NY. He has incredible pride, which appears to one of the keys to his success. That pride will also drive him to perpetual pennant contenders.

    I’m often wrong, but never in doubt …

    • hardtop

      i don’t agree with this. these guys have virtually no team loyalty, and I would believe there are very few exceptions. they might give a home town discount from time to time due to nostalgia or family roots, but generally speaking, pro baseball players seldom have their heart strings tugged by anything other than the Benjamin’s. If an exception exists, they are most likely born and raised near the team they are loyal too. though St. Louis might be a touch closer to the Dominican, i doubt its proximity has a profound affect on his allegiance. i have met about a dozen pro ball players (and i’m not talking about having them sign a baseball) and i can tell you from explicit conversations on the topic with a few… even the nicest guys are about the money. sure, they all have teams they would like to play for (usually based on the perceived relative hotness of that cities female population) but the team they like best is, the team that makes them the richest.
      That said, I don’t want the poo-hole anyway. so i’m hoping he does hate the cubs enough to go somewhere else. as long as it isn’t Milwaukee or Pittsburgh, that’s fine with me.

      • Deez

        Why should they? Who “really” cares about you other than you? Especially now. How many fans are vulgar & condescending regardless of what you do.
        If you were in the same situation, why would you take less money?
        “Money doesn’t solve problems, but it’s a good problem to have.”

        • hardtop

          i didn’t say they should! the context of this discussion was established by the previous post, the one to which i replied. your response to my response suggests i was being critical of the players on the topic of team loyalty: I was not doing that at all.
          but, since you accused me of it, I will now. even though i don’t believe they SHOULD be loyal and emotionally invested in their team and city, I sure wish they WOULD be. I prefer the likes of Ernie Banks to the modern greedy baseball whore. While we are at it, I don’t even approve of fraternization with the other team, especially the cardinals. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it.

  • Caleb

    Buy him. End of story.

  • die hard

    skills declining…will be washed up in 3 years…

    • EQ76

      .300 / 37 /  98??

      I’ll take that decline anytime!

  • Mike Foster

    “…push him into that “they didn’t respect me” mentality …” I think that’s the job of the agent to convince him he’s being dissed. Could easily see him in Boston, or a Yankee, simply due to the prestige of those organizations. I think Berkman was a case of insurance money, “see Albert, we got a 1st baseman”. And if Albert signs, they can trade Berkman in July, he’s still a good bat.

  • jstraw

    I hope the Cardinals give him 12 years and 300 million. They won’t be able to afford to pay beer vendors. Then we take a hard look at Fielder or just gamble on Lahair. At whatever figure Albert would bite on, I don’t want any part of him.

  • Stuart Williams

    Starting Pitching!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • http://www.bing.com/ Rusty

      This is a neat suamrmy. Thanks for sharing!

  • RY

    Pujols will never go to the cubs for one main reason: He knows they are nowhere close to putting a consistent winning product on the field! I can definitely see the possibility of him becoming an Angel, however I will say it until I am proved wrong that he will be wearing Cardinal red next season and beyond.

  • Ian Afterbirth

    As difficult as it may be we gotta say no to that kind of contract. It would handcuff us for years to come. He may not be Soriano but we’d suffer just the same. Well, almost.

  • hardtop

    nice picture! i have never seen anyone who looks more like a gay hairdresser than… my wife’s gay hairdresser.

    From a different angle, he he may look like someone who would be involved in an early hour stabbing incident outside a super trendy night club, to which he undoubtedly arrived in a be-jeweled 82 Buick Regal with 13″ gold spoke wheels.

    Have you ever heard of a hairdresser playing first base? nay, i say, nay!

  • Kyle N

    Ultimately, it may be in the best interest of Pujols to take the original St. Louis figure that is again being offered. He won’t get A-Rod money because the Yanks were banking on the possibility of him breaking the home run record and the extra revenue that would provide (back when the home run was a sexier stat. . . I think public perception has cooled and the novelty of the 50+ home run slugger has worn off and been replaced with “Roids!”, “Juice!”‘ “Elephant Growth Hormone!”).

    With his slow start (for his standards), subsequent wrist injury, and the big late-summer hot streak coupled with the playoff push, I think all of that has sort “cancelled” itself out, allowing Cardinals to comfortably keep their same offer.

    I would really be surprised if he left St. Louis. If he puts up numbers in the next ten years that end up being even 70-75% of what he did in the first ten, he could end up being called the greatest player ever.

  • Deez

    Pujols would put fans in the seats, but with that $25M/yr albatross of a contract, you can never build a contender UNLESS your Minors are putting out Rays like talent annually. Anyone who goes more that 5yrs/$120M – $125M (w/ a 6th yr team option for aobut $28M w/ a buyout of $14M) is crazy!
    Soriano & Beltran contracts have shown the way. Even look at the Mauer deal!?
    Even if we got Pujols, we will still spend the next 4yrs or so supplementing the Soriano contract until we can “possibly” get prospects “Major League Ready.”
    I like St.Louis’s hardline approach. “No One Player is the Team.” it may not win your fans but it keeps your organization financial solvent & competitive.
    I just pray our eventual new management team has the discipline not the go for this irrational free agent splash that can cripple the organization for a decade.

  • Stuart Williams

    Starting Pitching!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • die hard

    Fans will not fill the seats to see JC himself if team cant win…If Pujols can pitch, then I would reconsider

    • TWC

      “Fans will not fill the seats to see JC himself…”

      Say what?  When Juan Cruz last played for the Cubs, they had nearly 3 million fans in attendance and won their division.  Come ON, die hard, fact check!

    • hardtop

      WWJD? Softly ground into a double play. Those sandals suck for digging it out to first.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        Mike Quade would order JC to keep the bat on his shoulder to avoid the double play. JC can’t hit the curveball.

        • Toosh

          Let’s not start a holy war.

  • Nomar’s Left Glove

    Does Pujols strike anyone else as a total douche? I can’t help it, whenever I see him I get the urge to smash a beer bottle over his head.

    • jstraw

      I think that’s just the uni.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        Bam.

    • Toosh

      If he is, he fits right in with the rest of the team.

  • Cardfan

    Let me see if I can dispell some of the angst here with a little history…
    Mr. DeWitt purchases the Cardinals for $150M in 1995 from the Busch family. He turns around and sells the parking garage for $90M and he is sitting on the franchise for a cool $60M. They were drawing 2 or 2.5M fans yearly – a decent business. Along comes this 13th round pick in 2001 who lights the world on fire. Attendance is consistently above 3M for the past dozen years and the franchise is now valued at $500M+. Sure there is less team loyalty these days with players, but if I am inclined to win and I have the opportunity to stay on a team that hasn’t posted consecutive losing seasons since 1959, I’ll give a little, they’ll give a little, we’re all happy.

    RY is RO (right on)

    • Jeff

      So, even Cards fans wipe the Mark McGwire era from their memory?  It had a lot to do with the post strike recovery of the Cardinals, along with the new stadium.

      • Cardfan

        Agreed to an extent. He only really played for a few seasons. If you want to attribute the current franchise success to a guy who last played a full season in 1999 and has since been disgraced, you will have a difficult case to build. Hate the Cardinals, hate Pujols – doesn’t matter, at the end of the day, it’s a business. They can afford to keep him and they can’t afford to let him go.

        …and they would draw 30K to a corn field, so the stadium arguement is fleeting.

  • Dave

    After a complicated sign-and-trade Pujols will end up as the starting center for the Buffalo Sabres while the Cardinals will receive Matt Murton, a coupon for Great Clips and 47 subscriptions to Vibe.

    • T C

      This made me laugh WAY too hard. Well done, sir

    • dreese

      Best trade ever!!

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