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: Jun 16, 2011
Posted on: November 11, 2011 1:40 pm

What if ... the Cardinals let Pujols walk?

Pujols' numbers are historic and he'll continue to outshine everyone.  Kemp has a long way to go before he can hold a candle to Albert.  Kemp is great, but Albert has the resume.  A few great seasons do not compare to a decade of dominance.  Not saying that Kemp can't do it, but he hasn't yet.  Pujols burst onto the scene his rookie year while we've all waitied for Kemp to 'develope' into the monster he is now.   Either way and no matter where he goes, Pujols has earned the right to be the highest paid player.

Since: Aug 20, 2008
Posted on: November 11, 2011 1:36 pm

What if ... the Cardinals let Pujols walk?

This is one of the silliest articles I've ever read.  Pujols makes everyone around him better.  Holliday is already in decline, without Pujols he's really going to blow.  Berkman is old, and who else is going to support the middle of a very average lineup?  Jay, Craig, and Molina are not exactly middle of the order guys.  For the last 10 years the Cardinals have benefited from having the best hitter in baseball anchoring their lineup...letting him go at this point will never, ever make them better.

Since: Mar 29, 2007
Posted on: November 11, 2011 1:27 pm

What if ... the Cardinals let Pujols walk?

Could not agree more, VP. Everyone keeps making the same old tired point over and over again. "But the Cardinals will have to pay him a lot of money when he's old and not as good". For his entire career, he's been UNDERPAID! They've already made more money off of Albert than they would ever pay him in the next 10 years. The Cardinals organization gets a TON of exposure, even when they're losing while he's on the team. Plus, as stated, he's an icon, and not just in St.Louis. Went to Wrigley this year and overheard a Cub fan tell his son, "there goes the best player you will probably ever see"- and he WASN'T talking about Carlos Pena. It's only going to get more so as he nears and exceeds record after record. As for 8Ball, just like everyone who said the best player was Votto, Howard, Rollins, Bonds, Derek Lee, etc. Who did they ALL compete with for the honor of best player- Pujols.  Who does Kemp compete with for the honor of best player- PUJOLS. The rest are just the rest, soup of the day. Kemp's very good, but Albert is all-time great!

Since: Nov 10, 2006
Posted on: November 11, 2011 1:11 pm

What if ... the Cardinals let Pujols walk?

It's not about what Pujols would cost in the next year or two. It's about what Pujols might cost them in the latter half of this decade and beyond when he will no longer be the great slugger he is now but will be a huge drain on the payroll.

It would be unpopular to do so, but the Cards really would be smart to let him walk if they can't get the years/salary reduced from what I've heard that Pujols wants.

Since: Aug 3, 2011
Posted on: November 11, 2011 1:09 pm
This comment has been removed.

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Since: Mar 10, 2010
Posted on: November 11, 2011 12:59 pm

What if ... the Cardinals let Pujols walk?

great post VP / Pujols is an icon and you can not put a price on that . your basically rading Reyes for Pujols and there is no way thay deal makes any sense Reyes is a good player at best when healthy . potenetial ? dynamic ?  whatever bottomline he is a good player that can be replaced ... PUJOLS CAN NOT BE REPLACED ! PUJOLS TRUE MVP LAST 8 years what a mistake to give it to Votto or Howard or Rollins or Bonds .... ITS ALWAYS BEEN ALBERT PUJOLS MVP ! CARDINALS FOR LIFE ! 

Since: Jun 18, 2011
Posted on: November 11, 2011 12:48 pm

What if ... the Cardinals let Pujols walk?

Pujols on any team other than the Cardinals?  Let's dissect this one a little further.  Aside from the fact that Pujols can quit baseball today and beccome mayor of St. Louis, asided from the fact that he'll never pay for a meal in his life again in Missouri, and aside from the fact that Pujols is the most important person to the majority of St. Louisans, possibly sans Stan Musial (tough competition), Pujols is the leader of his ball club.  I certainly agree that the Cardinals lineup is in good shape without Pujols right NOW.  But, Berkman doesn't have more than a couple years left of being a 30+ home run hitter, and Holliday is very inconsistent, goes through long slumps and is prone to injury. 

The article questions Freese's ability to be consistent, and that's fair given his injuries of the past.  However, when healthy, Freese was undoubtedly the most consistent hitter for the Redbirds this year, and from a quality of at bat perspective was one of the most valuable in baseball in 2011.  This was no fluke year for him, and he'll most assuredly give his critics something to think about in 12.

Back to Pujols...  His numbers will be good for many years to come.  He's more valuable than almost any player to any team, in that fans adore him, he brings absolutely no drama, plays the game the way it should be played, and works as hard as anyone to stay successful.  He's attained veteran status, and that by itself is worth millions when you consider the impact he can have on younger players.  Consider too that he's really been underpaid for his entire career.  Consider also that if he left the game today, he would be a first ballot hall of famer.  The least you consider $24 or $25 mil a year is his fair market value plus some appreciation dollars for years past.  In a business that is all about getting what you pay for, this is the one example where a good will gesture should be made by DeWitt and his leadership team.

You also look at the dollars he brings in from not just St. Louis fans, but all teams and even the non-die-hard fans, who spend their money to see the man play and nothing else.  He's somebody that fills stadiums in cities he visits.  To even think of Pujols on a team other than the Redbirds is something that should have Cardinals management pulling out their checkbooks.  They have a responsibility to keep him in the town that will love him no matter what.    


Since: Mar 19, 2008
Posted on: November 11, 2011 12:41 pm

What if ... the Cardinals let Pujols walk?

I would love to see him leave the Cards, and the NL Central for that matter. The Cubs have too many holes so I hope they DONT sign for what will most likely be only 3 or 4 more good years at best. If they are going to spend serious money, they should simply focus in on Fielder. Sign Fielder to a 6 or 7 year contract, then in 4 or 5 years if his fielding has started deteriorating he could be traded to an AL team to DH. Pujols is the best right handed hitter in the game right now, but his slow start should be the warning signs that he is getting near the end of the line.

Since: Dec 13, 2008
Posted on: November 11, 2011 12:40 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!

Since: Aug 18, 2006
Posted on: November 11, 2011 12:39 pm

What if ... the Cardinals let Pujols walk?

Totally right.  Even at what will be his ridiculous salary, he is the best i the game.  If you are trying to win next year, he is the best player you could possibly get.  In 5 years, his contract will be an albatross, compared to his production.  Since the Cards won it all this year, I could see them re-signing him in hopes that they win a couple more rings before he starts to show his age.  But a team like the Cubs should avoid him, because by the time they are ready to contend his contract will be a burden. 

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