Cardinals vs. Pujols: Reality Setting In?

The result of the Cardinals' negotiations with Hall of Famer to be Albert Pujols will shape the organization's future for the next decade and beyond. Great amounts of ink have already been spilled on the topic, and with Prince Albert's self-imposed deadline passing, writers have penned stories with a wide array of hopes and speculation.

Thus far, Mark Teixeira has nixed any hopes of a first baseman swap, Tom Tango hypothetically looked at what giving Pujols an equity stake in the organization (and what percentage would be appropriate), every team blog is salivating at the potential courtship of the free agent slugger this winter, and we've even seen an absurd suggestion of trading Pujols for Bryce Harper.

Albert, in all of his infinite wisdom, foresaw the circus that would travel with him this season, and cites apparent distraction as he rationale for Wednesday's deadline. Without being in his shoes, it is hard to understand why it's a significant distraction.

It is doubtful that as he digs his feet into the dirt and gazes back at the opposing pitcher, he is thinking, "Should I drop my request of a contract with an average annual value of $30 million to $28.5 million?" Maybe, Albert and his teammates will lose some time in the film room, or at worst, maybe some sleep, but this distraction is the least of the Cardinals' problems.


Channeling DanUpBaby of Viva El Birdos, "the Cardinals are in the roughest position here." Even among some of the most rational non-cardinals fans, opinions about offering Pujols an A-Rod-esque contract are split. This is the cliché, you're dammed if you, dammed if you don't situation. On one hand we've seen the risks of one investing a high percentage of one's payroll in a single player. In fact, even if that player performs as anticipated, there is a chance its all for naught (See, Texas Rangers and Alex Rodriguez).

Though, there are also concerns of risk allocation. Having roughly $250 million tied up in one asset rather than several will amply the effects of underperformance and injury without having the same financial flexibility. A long term deal of this magnitude to any player has the ability to decimate an organization for a decade. 

On the other hand, Steve Sommer at Gas House Graphs shows us how utterly irreplaceable the Prince's production really is. Below, is a table Steve created to project Albert's product over the duration of his next hypothetical contract using comparable players that were the age of 28,29, or 30 and within 1.5 rWAR per season of Pujols in either direction (24 players):

 

32 - 38 (7 year deal)

32 - 39 (8 year deal)

32 - 40 (9 year deal)

32- 41 (10 year deal)

Max

70 

78.2

78.6

83.2

75th

44.3

49.1

50.3

50.3

50th

31.5

33.9

35.4

35.4

AVG

34.6

36.9

37.8

38.7

25th

20.4

20.9

20.9

20.9

Min

8.1

7.7

7

7

The above totals are cumulative rWAR 

When a player is capable of putting up a second hall of fame career during his decline phase, it is understandable why Cardinals fans are not ready for life after Pujols. The difficulty that would face GM John Mozeliak has he attempts to replace such a talent cannot be understated. Simply reallocating resources and signing 2011/2012 free agents like Prince Fielder, Edwin Jackson, Jonathan Papelbon would likely not be appealing to the Red Bird Nation. In all likelihood, adequately replacing Albert Pujols is an insurmountable task, making relenting to his contract request a painless decision. 

Indeed, the Cardinals are in a tough position. Of course, the longer the contract the more uncertainty. But, if there is one player to get in bed with for the next decade its Albert Pujols. However, it appears now we'll have to wait until after the fall classic to see who makes the next move in what will be a historic decision. 

JD Sussman is full time law student and co-founder of Bullpen Banter. He can be reached at JDSussman@bullpenbanter.com or via twitter.

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