Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Pujols Contract Post

First of all, I spent way too long coming up for a title for this post, and they were all a little bit too racy for our standards.  However, I think it's been a testament to Albert Pujols's body of work that it's rare (if ever) that people make PG-13-rated jokes about his last name.  Okay, on the real substance.  This kind of stuff is what I live for.

Obviously, Saturday it looked like Pujols was interested in doing in one night what Carlos Beltran did in three weeks by blowing up big time on the very eve of free agency.  That's why this post is necessary.  I want to start a discussion on one, of not three, of these topics, because this guy is really going to make this offseason interesting.  I want to talk about the potential suitors, I want to talk about whether he's going to actually get top-dollar, and I want to explore whether it is possible for the Pujols contract to not be a "bad" contract.

First, let's talk about the serious suitors for this guy.  The teams with the deepest pockets are presumably out of the running, although I would never completely take the Yankees out.  You gotta think Posada's gone, Montero will catch, and Arod, Jeter, and Teixeira can all still play better than replacement-level defense.  But the serious ones will most likely be the Cardinals, Cubs, Giants, Nats (who have been pretty willing to throw some cash around to show they mean business), and Angels. 

I don't buy the Angels because they have some front-office turmoil going on - is Scioscia running everything? - and because getting this guy would really just be appeasement after striking out on Teixeira and Crawford in the last few years.  I consider the Giants and Nats to be similar to each other:  Money to spend, money has been spent previously on what looks like bad-to-awful contracts, and some young guys who could use a little less spotlight as they develop.  Depends on who has the balls to assume what might inevitably be a bad contract.  The Cubs are interesting because they have Pena's contract expiring (good move by Hendry on the one-year deal) and a new GM who is so smart that he can find a diamond in the rough by looking at the top of all the leaderboards.  In all seriousness, if he isn't in the running, both Theo and Tom Ricketts lose credibility immediately, which is potentially dangerous. 

I pick him to stay with the Cardinals, because instead of spending $17-27 million more annually than they're already spending at the position, they're only giving the first-base position an $11 million raise if they're paying Pujols $27 million.  They're also somewhat desperate because since the unfortunate departure of JD Drew (sarcasm), he's been the main reason they've been so successful.  Just my thoughts.

Besides, I'm not entirely positive that Pujols is going to get a contract between $27 million and $30 million or beyond.  The only teams that have a heck of a lot to lose (i.e. urgency/desperation) would be Chicago and St. Louis.  And I'm not really convinced that either of them will be willing to jack up the price that high.  They'll jack it up high enough to most likely knock the other teams out, but are we really talking about Arod money without the Yankees in the bidding for a guy who's 31 years old (in Dominican years, whatever that means) and already has over a decade of service in the major leagues?  We might be talking about a tired body sooner rather than later.  And if we're talking about Prince Fielder as a consolation prize for whoever loses on Pujols, are we really in the business of guaranteeing that six or seven years from now, Pujols will be a better player than Fielder?  We're talking about only two desperate teams, neither of which have Jacques Cousteau pockets, an older player, and a not-too-distant alternative.  My point: the big guy might not get THAT much money.

This gets us into my next point:  Whatever contract Pujols might get, what are the chances it expires and the team signing it says, "wow, that was awesome!"  Unlikely.  Look at the Arod and Teixeira contracts:  People are already looking at those as bad contracts.  Carl Crawford is likely a bad contract.  The vast majority of long-term contracts (one of which Pujols will undoubtedly get from someone) end up as bad contracts, because it's a lot of money for a guy who might not even hold a starting lineup position if he didn't have the dollars attached to his name.  Obviously the market will dictate whether he'll end up with a "bad" contract, and a lot of that will fall upon the factors in the previous paragraph.  But at the same time, I think it's probably inevitable that he'll end up with a "bad" contract because for the most desperate teams, namely the Cubs and Cardinals, are desperate enough to basically pay Pujols $25, $25, $25, $25, $25 $25 million while he provides value of $40, $40, $40, $10, $10, $10.  I suppose if that's the case, maybe 6/$150 isn't bad after all.  I'm just glad I'm not of those GMs who will have to draw the line between good and bad.


Anonymous said...

I think one more factor to consider is the impact the rest of this week might have on it. It's going to be hard for the Cardinals to let him walk no matter what (like, if they had missed the playoffs it would have been tough). If they win the World Series? Their 2nd in 6 years? It's going to be REALLY tough, especially considering this proud franchise had won 1 world series in 39 years before his leading an underwhelming roster to the 2006 title and has them back again, and the fact that he might surpass Stan Musial as the best player in franchise history (no small task, Musial is one of the best players ever, and is one of only 3 players to lead their franchise in career singles, doubles, triples, and homers - he won't hold this record much longer if Pujols stays in St. Louis). To that point, Pujols has a real chance to go down as one of the best players ever. Cardinals fans don't want to watch him do that somewhere else, especially not if they get another championship here. He's worth more to them than he is to everyone else, and that is probably moreso the case than any free agent we've seen with any team in recent memory.

Tying this into one of your main points, the Cardinals should get some help on that front. Pujols is going to get a huge contract. Of that there is no doubt, look no further than Carl Crawford/Jayson Werth for evidence of that. But the days of the "Megacontract" are waning, especially for position players on the backside of their prime. We went through the Goldenc Age when a lot of teams were making a lot of money and were investing it more freely in decline years of players. As we start to get into said years of said contracts with guys like Rodriguez (the poster contract for what we're talking about), and teams aren't making as much money across the board with the downturn (or so it seems based on recent spending) teams aren't throwing around money quite as freely. I think teams see that the "Megacontract"n if ever a good idea, should be reserved for guys on the front side of their prime, and for starting pitchers moreso than position players. If King Felix hits free agency at age 27, he's worth a megacontract gamble. The same way CC was at age 28. Rodriguez at 31 paying him until he's 41 is not. Same can be said of Pujols and teams are realizing that. So instead of what 5 years ago would have been a lock for 200mm contract, that will probably be the ofty figure that gets thrown out there initially and it ends up being a mid-high 100mm contract, not the 250+mm that we would have been talking about a few years back. So the Cardinals get a break there. Couple that with his value to them, and I see him staying put. Though I do see the Cubs, as you mention, making a huge push. Given how aggressive they are being in constructing their front office, I don't see them being any different in constructing their roster. Theyare clearly looking to make things happen this winter.

Great post.


the gm at work said...

I think the fact that the Cardinals and Cubs don't particularly like each other too much will add to the overall intrigue. It will be too bad that we're no longer going to be around to write about it. If we are talking about a megacontract situation, it's going to come from one of those two teams because the other one is going to drive the price up, similar to what Boston and NY do, and one of the two will pay a premium to keep Pujols from going to the other guy.

Also, as we know, Theo Epstein sucks at free-agent negotiations, so that's another reason I believe he'll stay in St. Louis.

My prediction, as I texted you earlier, is 7/182.

Ross Kaplan said...

I agree with pretty much everything both of you guys said. I have to say I'm not an expert on NL Central rivalries, but is there really any chance Pujols or Fielder ends up with the Cubs. As DV alluded to, the Boy Genius isn't the best negotiator and tends to throw temper tantrums when things don't go his way so I really can't see that happening.

It'll be interesting to see how much the Nationals offers to either Pujols or Fielder. With either of those guys plus Strausburg, Zimmerman and Harper you have a great team in Washington for years to come. Then again, after the Dunn and Werth debacles they may be a little gun shy to offer a mega contract. Then there's also the fact that Fielder is not in the best shape in the world so I can't see too many sane NL GM's offering more than 5 years to a guy who's destined to be a DH.

the gm at work said...


Excellent insight. I will disagree with you on the first point: The Boy Wonder is no longer trashing hotel rooms (he leaves that to his starting pitchers after particularly-sloppy off-nights) because he doesn't give an F as much as he used to. Tying into point #5 of my previous rant-post "I Like Justice," he's no longer throwing temper tantrums because it's too much of a marathon in his own mind. Perhaps it'll be different in Chicago as there's the urgency to win a World Series after a hundred and three years.

I do agree that sucks at free-agent negotiations, and I've been saying that in this space for years. He either loses close ones or he outbids the field by an embarrassingly-large margin. The fake Carmine on the Felger show a few weeks back told Theo "Quick, sign JD Drew before somebody else does." And I feel like something like that is how it went down.

I just have a feeling that Fielder will be a National for five years, $105 million. Now both of my predictions are out there. Soon we'll see how smart I am.

Anonymous said...

Remember when we traded Murphy for gagne?

the gm said...

I definitely don't remember us doing it. I do remember the Red Sox doing it. On the same day, the Celtics traded for the best labor negotiator in the NBA.