Any way you slice it, $300 million is a lot of money. But then, Albert Pujols isn't just any ballplayer.
Pujols is entering his walk year with the Cardinals, and he and his representatives made it known last fall that the deadline on negotiating a new contract was the start of spring training. So, the Redbirds have less than a week to come up with something, or wait until October and try again.
As the story goes, Pujols wants a 10-year deal worth $300 million, a figure based on the market that was set by the 10-year, $275 million deal the Yankees gave Alex Rodriguez. Pujols' offensive numbers are comparable, or superior, to Rodriguez's, and Pujols is four years younger, so the bigger figure is at least logical.
Is Pujols the best player in the game? It's an arguable point, but if not Pujols, then who? The only name I can come up with is Detroit Miguel Cabrera.
Cabrera is 28, and is coming off a year in which he hit .328, with 38 homers and 126 RBI. Pujols hit four more homers, but had eight fewer RBIs and hit .312. Cabrera's better defensively too.
Pujols will make $16 million in 2011, and Cabrera will get $20 million. Should Pujols prevail and get a $30 million annual deal, what long-term impact will it have on the franchise? And what will Cabrera look for when he's a free agent in 2016 when he's 33?
Pujols and his agents surely know that there aren't a lot of ballclubs who can afford that kind of contract. The Yankees come to mind, but they've got a solid first baseman under contract through 2016 in Mark Teixiera, for about $22.5 million per, and I believe he's got a no-trade clause. The Angels would likely have interest, and maybe Boston, but I don't see anyone else - no NL teams - in the field.
Maybe Pujols will take the LeBron James route and get a TV special to announce where his future lies, though we know it won't be Miami. He's a very special talent, but he may not fit into the Cardinals' budget long-term.
This is the 50th anniversary of baseball's first expansion. The Los Angeles Angels and new Senators franchises sold for $1.75 million each (players were extra). Seven figures no longer seems very big. Pujols has earned a smidgen less than $90 million in his career so far. In the old days there wouldn't be a question of him spending his entire career in St. Louis. In the 21st century, all bets are off.