Blog Entry

What if ... the Cardinals let Pujols walk?

Posted on: November 11, 2011 10:43 am
By Matt Snyder

Let's not go crazy about the headline before realizing it's still a longshot that Cardinals superstar Albert Pujols signs elsewhere. Personally, I'd be shocked if he signed with anyone else. Most of the major markets are unable to come through with a huge bid. The Cubs might be able to, but we don't know if the new brain trust wants to take that path immediately (my guess is they don't). The Marlins are meeting with Pujols Friday, but could they afford him? It's doubtful they could come close to paying what St. Louis could. Can the allure of taking his talents to South Beach trump the loyalty, familiarity and dollars of St. Louis? Tough call, but only Pujols could answer that.

Still, let's just imagine a scenario where the Cardinals looked at the price tag internally and thought it best to outwardly appear as if they've done everything they could -- to appease the fans -- but still let Pujols walk via free agency. Obviously losing the best player in baseball would hurt the Cardinals, but I don't think it would be a death blow.

Let's check out what could be done with the money available, should Pujols sign elsewhere.

First of all, Jose Reyes could be signed to play shortstop. The leadoff spot was a bigger problem for the Cardinals than the middle of the order in 2011 (since-retired manager Tony La Russa had to use Ryan Theriot at leadoff in Game 7 of the World Series). Throw money at Reyes and the problem is solved. Plus, with Theriot, Nick Punto, Skip Schumaker and Daniel Descalso, there's plenty of infield depth to play with when Reyes serves a few stints on the DL. Jimmy Rollins could be a fall-back option. Next, Mark Buehrle could be signed. Remember, he grew up a Cardinals fan and has expressed interest in pitching for St. Louis in the past.

That means the Cardinals best lineup would be something like this:

1. Jose Reyes (or Rollins), SS
2. Allen Craig, RF
3. Matt Holliday, LF
4. Lance Berkman, 1B
5. David Freese, 3B
6. Yadier Molina, C
7. Jon Jay, CF
8. Punto/Theriot/Schumaker/Descalso, 2B

The starting rotation now includes a fully recovered Adam Wainwright, so it looks like this:

1. Adam Wainwright
2. Chris Carpenter
3. Mark Buehrle
4. Jaime Garcia
5. Kyle Lohse

Jake Westbrook, Lance Lynn and top prospect Shelby Miller are available in case of injury. And the bullpen is largely the same as it was toward the end of last season, with Jason Motte now getting a full season as closer.

I tell you what, that's a pretty damn good team. Sure, there are questions, like how are Freese and Craig going to hit over the course of a 162-game season as regulars? In moving Berkman to first and starting Craig, the bench loses a valuable bat, too. Age has to be a concern with Berkman and Carpenter. And of course, how does everyone respond without La Russa? Overall, though, there isn't much to dislike about that hypothetical team.

Considering what Pujols' salary might do to the ballclub if he's making $25 million or more eight years from now -- he'll turn 32 in January -- maybe it wouldn't be so bad for St. Louis if he did leave. It's certainly worth considering (again, internally, as to not alienate Pujols himself or any of the fans). I'd at least talk about it, and I'm guessing the front office has done so as well.

To reiterate, I don't think Pujols is going anywhere, but we're smack-dab in the time of the year that hypotheticals are the most fun.

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Since: May 17, 2008
Posted on: November 11, 2011 2:31 pm

What if ... the Cardinals let Pujols walk?

Or you keep Pujols and add Buerhle...both will take home town discounts, and withWainwright, thats a great team...again!
Well, so far, I have not seen any indication that Pujols (or Burehle for that matter) would take a "home town discount" to sign with the Cards.  Maybe he would, but your still talking about committing north of $20million per year to Pujols --if he was going to sign for less than that he would have taken the offer the Cards made before this past season--on a long term deal AND soming up with big dollars for Buerhle.  I dont know if the Cards can do both.  Personally, I expect for the Cards to resign Pujols but not do much else in FA (SS, for example, will likely be a short term deal with Furcal, incentive laden given his injury history the past few years) because they don't need to.

Since: Apr 3, 2009
Posted on: November 11, 2011 2:22 pm

What if ... the Cardinals let Pujols walk?

St. Louis may be better off if Pujols walks- 

if that aint the dumbest thing you'll ever hear idk what is.

Since: Oct 14, 2010
Posted on: November 11, 2011 2:20 pm

What if ... the Cardinals let Pujols walk?

Albert has been great for the Cardinals.  He will never surpass the classy Musial.  One is call THE MAN and the other, well it is not an attractive name, pronounced pooh holes.  So go with the thanks of St. Louis and Cardinal nation.  I am afraid you will find in too hot in TEXAS during the long summer but gettng a new team and a new chance sounds like it might be just the thing you need.  And Yes, the Cardinals can divide a lot of millions up and satisfy a greater number of good to  very good players.

Since: Nov 20, 2006
Posted on: November 11, 2011 2:20 pm

What if ... the Cardinals let Pujols walk?

According to Nolan Ryan's latest comments... probably not.

Since: Aug 18, 2006
Posted on: November 11, 2011 2:13 pm

What if ... the Cardinals let Pujols walk?

I'm not sure if I would want to pay Pujols 25 to 30 million when he is 37 to 40.  Even knowing he has been underpaid his whole career, that is partially his own fault for accepting the deal.  I did some looking and I wish I could find where I posted it (it wasn't on cbssports), but I took 20 Hall of Fame players and compared their average seasons before turning 35 and after turning 35.  The year they turned 35 was included in the before if they turned 35 mid season.  Out of the players I looked at, only Ted Williams put up fairly similar numbers in both categories.  My rule was they had to play at least until 40.  I really wish I had the numbers right here in front of me.  I will have to compile them again so I can post them.  It is staggering though at the differences.  I might change that age though to 32 or 33 to give players a little more weight towards the older numbers just to see if it makes a difference

Since: Mar 22, 2011
Posted on: November 11, 2011 2:11 pm

Fret no more STL fans

He'll be a Texas Ranger next year!  Woohoo!

Since: Dec 3, 2006
Posted on: November 11, 2011 2:05 pm

What if ... the Cardinals let Pujols walk?

The Cards have to be careful with this one. If you look at the top 25 MLB earners, I would submit that at least 18-19 are horribly overpaid and the teams would flat out release the players if they could get out of the deals. (Like they do in the NFL)  Here's your top 20:

A-Rod 32 mil;

Wells- 26 mil;

Sabathia 24 mil;
Teixeira and Mauer 23 mil;
Santana 21 mil;
Helton, Cabrera, Halladay and Howard 20 mil;
Beltran, Lee and Soriano- 19 mil
Zambrano, Hunter, Zito, Bay, Suzuki- 18 mil;
Beckett- 17 mil
Burnett 16 mil

Other than Sabathia, Cabrera, Halladay, there arent many in there that were worth the money in 2011. Most of the others are complete busts, especially Burnett, Zambrano, Zito, Bay, Lee, Soriano, Helton, Wells and Santana. For this type of money, one would expect at least Triple Crown contending numbers. (.300-.315, 33-35HRs, 115 RBIs or 30-40 sbs) or Cy Young Award type numbers (14-17 wins; sub 3.5 ERA, app 175-200 ks). If you dont hit these targets, you better be a wiz in the field, although we all know these contracts are not given out to defensive allstars, they are given out for hitting stats. Remember these guys are paid more than 98% of all other players. 

What do all these bad contracts have in common? 1. Length- most of these deals are in the 7-10 year range; 2. Age- most of the long term contracts extend well into most players' downsides (after the age of 32-33) where breakdowns begin to occur. 3. Best years behind- Most of these players had thier best yeears for another team. 4. Multiple bad years- One bad year in a contract can be overlooked, but most of these guys have multiple bad years within the new contract.

As far as Pujols, he is great. But should he be paid based on the scale of players above? Absolutely not. Most of the above listed players are horribly overpaid and the Cards should not have to horribly overpay Pujols because the Yankees horribly overpaid A-Rod. If that were the case, then one could argue that he is worth 52 million dollars per year because he is twice as good as Wells, who christened his new mega deal with a .218-25-66 year.

Since: Aug 3, 2011
Posted on: November 11, 2011 2:02 pm
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Since: Mar 29, 2007
Posted on: November 11, 2011 1:56 pm

What if ... the Cardinals let Pujols walk?

8ball, I agree that both Braun and Kemp are great players now, and have been for the last couple of years. They both had better years than Pujols did this year, although not by as much as many would imply. As always, we'll have to see what future years bring. All I know is, Albert's taken on all challengers for the last decade plus and it seems many of his challengers from 10 years ago, 8 years ago, even 5 years ago have fallen off. IMO, a great 1, 2, 3 years doesn't make you a great player even right now. It just means you had a great run for a short time. Still, I have to give you, Kemp and Braun are amazing right now and fun to watch.

Since: Aug 3, 2011
Posted on: November 11, 2011 1:50 pm
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