The Albert Pujols Ripple Effect

23 02 2011

Posted by Teix4MVP

Now, we all know about the fact that the best hitter in baseball was not extended by the Cardinals before his deadline, and we all know he’s a free agent after this season ends. But what we all overlook are some key stories to watch due to Albert not re-signing yet, because they could really change the MLB as we know it whether it be this season or the next few years. Here are a few I think that Albert can indirectly affect.

Prince Fielder’s New Contract

Another power hitting first baseman will be on the market after this season. Prince Fielder and the Milwaukee Brewers aren’t really a fit anymore because of Fielder’s contract demands and the Brewers’ flexibility not matching up. So Fielder will hit the open market as the best first baseman available.

Well, not exactly if Pujols hits the Free Agent market as well. Fielder’s body type will open him up for more injuries as he gets older, making it hard to compete with Pujols. Fielder’s hitting, while being very good and consistently with the top numbers, definitely cannot compete with Pujols’ elite hitting combined with ultimate consistency. Pujols’ glove is simply superior to Prince’s not-so-stellar one. So really, Pujols is superior to Fielder in pretty much every way. In improving your ball club, you want Pujols even if he is older. Why? WAR

Fielder's hope for a massive contract could explode if Albert hits the open market.

from the past five years tell you. Fielder’s WAR from the past 5 seasons: 1.3, 5.3, 2.7, 6.9, 4.1, showing a jump or fall every year. Pujols’? 8.3, 8.4, 9.3, 8.7, 7.3. Pujols for his career has never had a WAR lower than 5.7 by the way. Fielder should really be hoping that Albert and the Cardinals reach a deal by the time the offseason hits, or else Fielder will be even further than he already is from reaching his desired contract of 8 years, 180MM dollars, the same contract that  Mark Teixeira received. Pujols will definitely play a big part in Fielder’s next contract.

C.C. Sabathia

Pujols also affects C.C. Sabathia. Why? Well, Sabathia has an opt out clause Yankees GM Brian Cashman included when Sabathia first signed with the Yankees that allows him to hit the market again. This clause could possibly nab him more years/money like his teammate that also opted out of his contract, Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod managed to secure a 10-year commitment and enough cash to make him the highest paid player in the game, so Sabathia could do the same in hopes of making significantly more cash and years. If Albert hits the market, it doesn’t really affect Sabathia, as he is an ace pitcher and Albert is the best hitter in baseball, so there will be no competition at a position. However, if Albert doesn’t hit the free agent market, things could change very quickly for Sabathia. He would not only be the best free agent starter on the market, but also the best player on the market. Teams that aren’t even interested in signing those kind of guys still check in on them even if it is to just drive up the price for their rivals. And there’s never a surplus of good pitching. All the big market clubs would be interested, and losing clubs like the Nationals or Royals looking to complement their young talent could make attempts at him, and don’t count out the Yankees either. Sabathia’s opt out clause looms large on the Yankees’ and their fans’ minds, and the thought of a no-Sabathia rotation in 2012 could mean the end of the world….for the Yankees’ regular season and playoff hopes. Pujols will certainly either help or not change Sabathia’s decision whether or not to opt out.

The Cardinals’ Rotation and Young Stars

You may be wondering why this is relevant to Albert Pujols. Well, it’s not just dealing with him, it’s also dealing with Matt Holliday, Kyle Lohse, and Chris Carpenter. That’s right:financial commitments. Payroll for the Cardinals last season was just under 95MM dollars. That’s with Pujols having a 16MM salary. With 30MM per year included, or even 25MM, that pushes the Cards’ payroll over 100MM dollars, something Bill DeWitt Jr. has never done before. This is very bad indeed, but it affects the Cardinals’ stellar rotation. Chris Carpenter makes 15MM dollars this season, and the Cardinals will probably have to buyout his option for 2012 to clear up space for Pujols. It also

Adam Wainwright and the Cardinals' rotation could be influenced by Pujols' contract if he re-signs for 25MM+.

might not allow them to extend Adam Wainwright past his 2012 option. Kyle Lohse’s bad contract takes him through 2012, so they would either have to eat a lot of his salary to clear room or include a more desirable player in a deal, or both.

Jaime Garcia and Colby Rasmus are both arbitration-eligible after the 2012 season. While it probably isn’t a big deal now, Pujols will be getting into the middle of his contract right when Garcia and Rasmus hit free agency. Garcia was good for the Cardinals in 2010, posting a 2.70 ERA and a 13-8 W-L record, and compiling a 3.2 WAR. Rasmus also was good, hitting for a .270/.361/.498 slashline, hitting 24 home runs and compiling a 3.5 WAR. They are going to keep improving, maybe becoming 4-5 WAR players if everything goes right. They could be traded or leave for free agency due to Pujols’ massive contract if he gets it. So basically, the entire Cardinals team and its future are dependent on the result of Pujols’ contract.

Negotiations between the MLB and the MLBPA about a new CBA

Well, the current CBA expires after this year, and you can bet Albert can and will be used as a reference during those talks. Cardinals manager Tony La Russa already made an accusation about Albert being used as a weapon in this battle, saying that the Players’ Association was telling Albert to run up his price tag. While MLBPA head Michael Weiner shot that down, one has to wonder if that could be a sticking point. To me, it certainly is, because it could swing salaries into the owners’ favor or further help the players. I don’t think that Pujols was directly told to drag out his negotiations, but at the very least his name and situation will be mentioned during CBA talks before, during, and after the 2011 regular and post seasons.

The Cubs’ Fan Support

WARNING: If you are a Cardinals fan, please promptly scroll down to the end of the page where I conclude this piece.

Okay, the worst nightmare for any Cardinals fan is not only losing Albert, but losing him to the hated Chicago Cubs. Which could happen if Pujols hits the free agent market. The Cubs would apparently offer him the A-Rod Contract, which is 10 years along with a 275MM or more. That would be at least as bad as LeBron James leaving for Miami, and probably a lot worst. The name Albert would probably be expelled from all baby books. The St. Louis area would go crazy. The Cardinals might collapse, because even if they have Matt Holliday and Colby Rasmus to lead the offense, Albert hitting in the 3 spot against the Cubs would kill them.  But enough from the Cards perspective. If the Cubs DO sign Albert, it’d appear to be the team’s best hope to win a World Series in over 100 years for fans. It’d take up the first base spot which has been vacated, and it would give the best hitter since Ryne Sandberg to the Cubs. If they don’t sign him, however, it could be a PR nightmare. Longtime Cubbies fans could groan and complain about letting their best chance at the coveted Fall Classic trophy slip through their fingers or, more appropriately, their pockets. It would suck the morale out of fans and maybe they might stop buying some of the most expensive tickets in the MLB. So Albert and his chance at free agency has basically the entire Cubs’ fan base drooling and waiting, and could either turn them towards or away from trusting management.

Albert Pujols could affect much more than just himself with this big decision of his. As you can see, Albert is just a stone dropped into a pond, and the ripples stretch all across the league, both onfield and off it. What will matter is how big the ripples are, and how far they reach into the future.

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15 responses

25 02 2011
givejonadollar

I’m still hoping the Cubs end up signing Albert. I would love to get less years than 10, but they will probably just have to get it done. He has much more upside than Soriano afterall. 🙂

25 02 2011
Teix4MVP

Well, Jim Hendry’s stupidity combined with fan pressure should get Albert what he wants. I mean, the average Cubs fan dreams of stealing Albert away from the Cardinals, of all teams, and if they didn’t get him because of money issues, that’d basically kill any faith left in the Cubs.

25 02 2011
dikitty0527

I say bring Albert to Chicago. It would serve the Cards right to get stuck with Ryan Theriot. Watch out for him, birdies – he’ll bite you in the butt!!! Albert I am sure will be a gentleman and simply leave St. Louis with nothing but nice things to say about his time there; just as Derek Lee left Chicago. And the Cubs fans deserve to have a great player like Albert.

25 02 2011
Teix4MVP

Well, he’ll certainly take the high road outta there, but do you know what the St. Louis area will do? It’ll be LeBron James out of Cleveland all over again-but worse.

26 02 2011
George G

Nope. Albert’s not teaming up with Chris Bosh & Dawayne Wade, nor going to have a one-hour TV special declaring where he’s going to play.
He deserves the money after being underpaid his entire career, hands down, no question. Cardinals fans are smart enough to understand.

26 02 2011
George G

That being said, there’s no way the Cardinals let Pujols go. They’ll work something out. If they don’t, they’re looking at Carlos Pena or Prince Fielder. It’s possible.

25 02 2011
Jah

Cubs fans don’t deserve a great player like Albert. They deserve beer, because that’s why they go to the games.

26 02 2011
chainsaw

U jelly?

26 02 2011
Teix4MVP

They do deserve a World Series though, because not only would it help Cubs fans, it’d help MLB for a historic franchise to finally break a curse. Just ask *shudders* Boston.

26 02 2011
George G

I know and amazingly, Cardinals fans don’t drink beer at games. Just diet cokes and Roy Rogers’

26 02 2011
Timothy Hegerich

I would be a nice thing to see a Cubs World Series push. However, if they get there, I hope the Bombers are waiting to add new life to the curse.

26 02 2011
MIDGET

Albert is coming to Chicago… Wainwright is never going to be the same.. no there’s no pitching rotation… not enough money.. if the cubs dont get em… it will go down in cubbie history… GO CUBS!!!

26 02 2011
BaconSlayer09

I’m starting to wonder if Cubs fans originally came up with the LeBron to Chicago idea this past summer.

Because Pujols would be Chicago disappointment 2.0.

27 02 2011
shannon

First of all, I’m not a Cubs fan, nor am I a Cardinals fan. So I should be fairly neutral on the matter, right?

Second of all, I don’t think Cubs fans would be completely and utterly devastated if Pujols re-signs with the Cardinals. Right now it’s an immense pipe dream but it doesn’t seem highly likely at this time.

So here’s my take: If Albert Pujols signs with another team—doesn’t matter which team—Cardinals fans are going to be furious at the team’s FO for not doing more to try and keep him, and at Pujols for what they perceive as a greedy attitude and reluctance to take a “hometown discount” and play his entire career with the Cards. In effect, he would be MLB’s LeBron James. If he does sign with the Cubs, it would be the ultimate betrayal in any Cards fan’s eyes. I’m talking 9th Level of Hell, Brutus or Judas Iscariot. That bad.

I remember when Brett Favre first signed with the Vikings. Packers fans were furious that he would “betray” them in that manner. But I also remember a lot of other Vikings fans being extremely apprehensive about the whole deal. Maybe a lot of Cubs fans would feel the same way. I don’t know.

Last year was also when the off-season speculation was about whether the Twins could extend Joe Mauer. Yankees blogs were filled with comments from fans salivating at the thought of Mauer in Yankee Pinstripes (but who figured it would never happen), and some who were absolutely confident he’d be with them this year. Like Pujols, Mauer set a deadline to have an extension worked out. Unlike Pujols, however, an extension was agreed on with about 2 weeks left in Spring Training.

Sorry this post is so long. So where I stand is this: I think it would be smart for Pujols to re-sign with the Cards. There are very few players these days who spend their entire careers with one team. He’s also the face of the franchise, and it would destroy the morale of the city of St. Louis if he walks away. He can be viewed as either a franchise player and true icon to St. Louis, another Anti-LeBron (Thank you, Jimmy Fallon!). Or, he can accept a dump-truck full of money from another team and become a pariah to the Cardinals fans, who may then view everything he did for the city as a farce.

Be like Mauer, not like LeBron.

27 02 2011
Teix4MVP

I agree that it’d be catastrophic for management and for Albert’s perception in St. Louis if he left. But it is a very real possibility that he could leave if his agent keeps filling Pujols’ thoughts with false beliefs of 30MM a year, which he’ll never get. If the Cubs are serious about 10 years, 275MM, then it’ll obviously get him signed.

Will I like it? Not at all. I’ll hate Pujols for it. Will I be surprised? Again, not at all. If you had a chance to make 275MM dollars at a new company, but your old employer thought you’d stay because you were their new hotshot recruit that gave you a chance one time and now they expected you to stay, which do you choose?

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