St. Louis Cardinals' Albert Pujols connects for an RBI single in the third inning of a baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Monday, Sept. 27, 2010, in St. Louis.(AP Photo/Tom Gannam) By Tom Gannam
For a guy who has always maintained he wants to play his entire career in St. Louis, Albert Pujols is certainly playing hardball with the Cardinals during these contract negotiations. He's set a deadline for the deal to be done by February 16th, and he's told the Cardinals he will veto any attempt to trade him. He has veto power because he's been in the Major Leagues for 10 years, and the last five with the same team. So he's well within his rights to make these demands, but why would he make them in the first place? As for the deadline, he's not the one negotiating with the Cardinals... his agent is. Is it really that much of a distraction for Albert during spring training, or even the regulation season, if his agent continues to talk to the Cardinals? Of course it isn't, it's just a way to put more pressure on the Cardinals. Did he need to come out and warn the team that he would veto any attempt to trade him? Of course he didn't. He could have quietly vetoed a trade attempt if, and when, it ever came up. This was just another way to put pressure on the team. If the reports we're hearing at true, that Albert's agent is asking for $300 million over 10 years, it seems highly unlikely the Cardinals will re-sign Pujols. And they shouldn't at that price. That would handcuff the organization for the next decade and put them at tremendous risk of being unable to make improvements to the rest of the roster.
Something else to consider; it's possible that Pujols has already peaked and is now on the downward part of his career. He's still the best, make no mistake about that. But this past season his batting average was 19 points below his career average. He drove in 10 fewer runs than he's averaged over his career. He struck out more times than he has in every season, except for his rookie year in 2001. Again, I understand that he's still the best going, and isn't going to reach his career highs every season he plays. But he wants to be paid based on his best years, and it seems unlikely that as he reaches his mid 30's and beyond, he'll be getting better. The days of seeing aging players getting better left with the steroids era. Chances are great that Pujols, like nearly every other player in the history of the game, will be slowing down dramatically as he reaches his mid to late 30's. Seems to be the Cardinals would be taking on too much risk, leaving themselves without much payroll wiggle room, if they sign Pujols to a contract approaching $300 million. They'd be better off using that money on a several very good players, rather than one great one.