Albert Pujols not donning Cardinals red would be stranger than seeing the front office of the New York Yankees having to blow dust off their checkbooks.
But free agency can now be cemented as a major possibility, after the “Prince of St. Louis” failed to agree on a new contract with the Cardinals. With inflated deals for a number of stars such as Ryan Howard and Alex Rodriguez, it’s not hard to believe that Pujols and St. Louis were unable to come to terms. After all, the original rumored desire of a 10-year, 300 million dollar deal is an absurd figure, even for a man of Albert’s talents.
That leaves only one question: If not the Cardinals, then who?
Count out the Yankees and Red Sox, surprisingly. The two major powers should have healthy, power hitting, defensive talents at first base in Adrian Gonzalez and Mark Teixeira – and it’s silly to consider Pujols in a DH role – one that Albert himself likely wouldn’t accept, and neither would each of the two aforementioned stars.
Whispers around teams like the Orioles and Angels should also be set aside. The Angels have never reached the nine-figure plateau with any player, and don’t expect that to change any time soon. As for Baltimore, while the Orioles have Derrek Lee signed for a year, there will be a major hole at first base, what with no prospects ready to step in. But if Andy MacPhail remains in the front office, it would be hard to imagine that the Orioles – who were rumored to offer 140 million to Teixeira – would come anywhere near the asking price for Pujols. The rumored 30-million dollar per year price tag for Pujols would be approximately one-third of Baltimore’s payroll in 2011.
Three teams – aside from the Cardinals, who could eventually talk Pujols into staying – would make the most sense, as franchises that would have the moxie and the stones to throw an exorbitant amount of cash in Pujols’ direction.
Washington Nationals – As proven earlier this past offseason, the Nats are looking to add major pieces to its franchise, in hopes to build around its young nucleus and new stadium. Washington signed Jayson Werth to a ridiculous and overpriced 7-year, $126 million deal, proving that the Nats are willing to overpay to bring talent to the nation’s capital. With Strasburg potentially returning next year, adding Pujols to the offense would spark a lot of excitement for the Nats and its fanbase. Current Nationals 1B Adam LaRoche would also be heading into the second and final year of his deal.
Chicago Cubs – The reasons for the Cubs are quite obvious, from Carlos Pena only being onboard with a one-year deal, to a major market team needing a savior to bring it out of its never-ending title drought, to the simple fact that the Cubs would love nothing more than to steal away the superstar from its bitter rivals in St. Louis. Pujols would be a monster playing 81 games at Wrigley Field, and the fans would welcome him with open arms.
New York Mets – Certainly, there is the whirlwind story against the Mets involving a lawsuit that is seeking $1 billion from the team’s ownership, and that would act as an obstacle to any major addition to the roster. But New York has taken on a number of bad contracts in the past, many of which are set to come off the books in the near future. If everything else gets sorted out, this is a franchise that competes (in payroll) with the Yankees and Red Sox. It wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility – with no major superstar planted at first base – for the Mets to take on another major contract, only this time with arguably the game’s best overall player.
There is plenty of time for the Albert Pujols rumor stew to continue to simmer, and if the St. Louis star does move to free agency at the end of the 2011 season, there will be plenty of fireworks and a LeBron James Decision-like atmosphere ready to explode onto the scene.
Until then, the city of St. Louis will have to relish the time it has with Pujols, hope for more, and drown its sorrows and stress in damn good BBQ and Busch beer.