[Ed. note: Once or twice throughout the season, the United Cardinal Bloggers undertake a roundtable discussion via e-mail that involves and answers various questions from the bloggers taking part over the course of a few weeks. We've spent most of our writing time answering those questions and taking part in those discussions (gladly, I might add), so figured they are fair game to post here - not to mention trying to gain a little exposure for both the project as well as some other blogs you all should be reading.]
Michael Riehn from Whiteyball asks:
The upcoming contract of Albert Pujols has been through much speculation this offseason. While the future Hall of Famer has two years remaining on his contract, it has been cause for concern for many in Cardinal nation. The question that hasn’t been asked, because it seems obvious, is SHOULD we sign Pujols to a longterm contract? This question isn’t as easy as you might think at first glance.
In order to preface this question, I’d like to bring up a cautionary tale. Frank Thomas may have been a better hitter than Albert Pujols through his age 29 season. Really.
Thomas: .330 BA/ .452 OBP/ .600 SLG/ OPS+ 182
Pujols: .334 BA/ .426 OBP/ .628 SLG/ OPS+ 171
If Thomas were the Cardinal player instead of Pujols, we would have been talking about signing him to the same contract. After Thomas turned 30, he only hit .276/.389/.515 with 264 homers and a 134 OPS+. From 2002-2008 (which would be the last 6 years of a 10 year contract), Fangraphs had Thomas worth $51.2 million dollars. A 25 million a year contract in the last 6 years would be $150 million or a net deficit of ONE HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS. Mid market clubs can’t eat $16.6 million per year in performance deficits.
Alex Rodriguez is another good comp for Pujols. In his age 30-33 seasons, he has been worth 102.9 million. Over 4 years, this is worth 25.725 per season (per Fangraphs). What is Rodriguez going to be worth over the next 6 years with regression?
Now you may say that Albert is going to be different. Thomas fell off a cliff in his age 30 season and nobody projects Pujols to fall that much this season (age 30). Rodriguez is still a great player and has never had Pujols’s contact rate or plate discipline.
What say you Cardinal bloggers? Is Pujols worth 10 years 25 million dollars? Would you sign him for 10 years 30 million? Are you confident he will be worth it? If so why? What would he have to produce over 10 years as a break even? (You can bring in non statistical examples like bringing fans to the ballpark, money from chasing records, etc.)
I too will run the risk of self-promotion, but I presume we have all written about this subject at one time or another. I actually brought it up in a previous UCB Roundtable, during the 2008 off-season.
I’m going to take off the stat hat for a minute, and go with the bleeding heart fan response.
In a city that so blindly ties themselves to the Cardinals, for many different reasons, Albert Pujols stands out among the current players as a beacon to which everyone and everything gravitates. He is the current center of the Cardinal Nation, and is in the process of writing his name among the immortals to have worn the Birds on the Bat. He has an opportunity to do so while wearing that hallowed uniform for the entirety of his Major League Baseball career.
You just don’t let a guy like that walk.
Yeah, I know that the statistics and history bear out that feeding him a big pile of cash for a ridiculous number of years has the potential to hamstring the team in the later years of the contract. I’m fully aware that Pujols can (and may well yet) probably find a larger payday outside of St. Louis. But Albert Pujols *IS* the Cardinals right now. Would folks still pack Busch III if he were allowed to sign elsewhere after 2011? Probably, eventually.
But if you’ll allow me to engage in some hyperbole for a moment… Would you want to be the ownership group that let one of the greatest players in Cardinals franchise history (if not MLB, by the time he’s done) walk? Nevermind the cost. He means that much to this franchise, to this city. Anheuser Busch sold out. Companies and residents continue to leave the City of St. Louis. Will Pujols be the next entity to find better pastures elsewhere?
I don’t think Bill DeWitt’s group plans to allow that to happen, not on their watch. Defer money, get creative with the deal, as Pip suggests – just don’t let him walk for nothing. At least if you can’t re-sign him, trade the guy!
I think the Cards will ultimately re-sign Pujols. I think they may have been sandbagging for the last couple of seasons on payroll because 1) they could, in the NL Central, 2) they were aware this Pujols deal was on the horizon, 3) if not, isn’t Pujols the kind of guy worth taking a loss on for a few seasons?
My big question: if Pujols is true to his word of wanting to finish his career in St. Louis and is willing to take a deal for $20-22mm per year, arguably below current market value, will the MLBPA allow it to happen? Remember that the Players’ Association stepped in a few years ago when Alex Rodriguez appeared headed to Boston, but his contract wasn’t favorable enough for the PA’s liking.