According to Sports Illustrated columnist, Jon Heyman, it’s highly unlikely that Albert Pujols will reach an agreement with the St. Louis Cardinals on a new contract before the three time National League MVP’s self-imposed deadline at noon on Wednesday. According to Heyman’s sources, in–what appears to be–a final attempt to keep one of baseball’s most prolific sluggers wearing the “birds on the bat” on his uniform, Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt and general manager John Mozeliak offered Pujols an eight-year contract in excess of $200 million dollars. Unfortunately for the organization, the offer pales in comparison to the demands of Pujols and his agent Dan Lonzano. Currently they’re asking for a contract that would pay $30 million annually over a ten year period. Such a contract would easily out-shine Alex Rodriguez’s record breaking 10-year, $275 million deal. Oh, and Lonzano is asking for the Cardinals to pony up part-ownership of the franchise to Pujols as well– an unprecedented request to go along with an unprecedented contract.
On Tuesday afternoon, St. Louis Cardinals Manager Tony La Russa told Joe Strauss at the St. Louis Post Dispatch(among a group of reporters) that he believes the MLB Players Union to be a major player in the negotiations. He went on to offer his displeasure with the players union’s “dropping an avil” of pressure on Pujols and company to set a new standard in player salary.
“I know what [Pujols] is going through with the [players] union and to some extent his representatives…[His] representatives are getting beat up by the union,” Tony La Russa told reports at Roger Dean Stadium on Tuesday. “Set the bar, set the bar… It’s not the way it should be.”
MLB Player’s Association executive director, Michael Weiner, contends that the union hasn’t meddled in Pujols’ contract negotiations and has even stated that La Russa was completely incorrect in his assertions.
If the 31 year-old Pujols does end up a free agent next winter, it’ll be extremely difficult for him to find a suitor willing (and able) to meet his current contract demands. While he’s a talented fielder, he hasn’t spent any worthwhile time at a position besides first base since the ’03 season when he played 113 games in left field. Outside of the Cardinals, the only teams with enough money to afford Pujols’ services are the Yankees, Red Sox, Mets, Cubs, Phillies and (possibly) the Mariners. However, the Yankees, Red Sox and Phillies all have premier first baseman already, and only the Cubs and Mariners– barring any extravagant transactions– would have enough payroll slack to pay Pujols anyway. Both of those teams, though, are currently set at the position (with Carlos Pena and Justin Smoak) and neither would likely be willing to sacrifice so much payroll flexibility while in a rebuilding phase. So, while Pujols might not sign with the Cardinals before today’s deadline, Cardinals fans still can hope for their slugger to remain with the team long term.