If you have to ask, you probably can’t afford it. You’ve probably all heard this line at one time or another. It’s usually said in jest, but there are indeed times when it is completely appropriate and sadly true. Consider the case of the Pagani Zonda or the Bugatti Veyron. What are those? If you have to ask, then you probably cannot afford them. In reality, they are considered “supercars”, and they are automobiles for the elite car aficionados who have both money to burn and the desire to catapult from 0-60 faster than I can go from “idle” to “highly annoyed”. If you really have to ask how much each car costs, then you probably better brace yourself before doing a Google search.
There’s a point here somewhere, and I plan on getting to it soon. Rumor has it that Albert Pujols is seeking “Alex Rodriguez-type money” for his contract. For those of you keeping track at home, that’s 10 yrs / $275M for the base contract. Unlike many writers, I’m not interested in debating whether or not Albert is worth the money. I don’t think anybody is really “worth” that much money, but it’s really a market value issue more than anything, so the “Market” will dictate what a player is worth. In light of the Werth contract, one might argue that this mysterious “Market” entity is really confused and possibly in dire need of random substance abuse testing. Since no such thing exists for the “Market”, we’ll just have to go with it. Rather than yell at the rain on this one, I’m going to approach the issue from a different perspective (big surprise there). I’m interested in the demand side of the equation, and the team’s ability/desire to afford such a contract.
The Cardinals are probably headed for a $110M opening day payroll for 2011, and that’s probably a little over what the front office had originally projected. My projection is based on a current official tally of $95.825M for 11 players plus outstanding contracts for guys like Jaime Garcia, Kyle McClellan, Jason Motte, Mitchell Boggs, Ryan Theriot, Brendan Ryan, David Freese, Jon Jay, Colby Rasmus, Allen Craig, a backup catcher to be named later, and a few other guys to round out the roster. If the Cardinals and AP agree on an extension that pays him exactly $27.5M a year starting in 2012, then the team will have exactly $95.875M committed to the 2012 team for exactly 7 players. So by comparison to 2011, that’s an extra $50k for 4 fewer players.
- 2012 Commitments (projected)
- Chris Carpenter – $15M (if the team option is exercised)
- Adam Wainwright – $9M (if the team option is exercised)
- Kyle Lohse – $11.875M (if I can’t convince him to retire)
- Albert Pujols – $27.5M
- Matt Holliday – $17M
- Yadier Molina – $7M (if the team option is exercised)
- Jake Westbrook – $8.5M
If Lance Berkman only sticks around for a year, the $8M dedicated to his contract in 2010 effectively gets swallowed by the new money in AP’s deal. ($27.5M represents a raise of $11.5M over AP’s 2010 salary of $16M) Presumably, Molina and Wainwright could easily become more expensive over time, so the team would have to accommodate them, and Garcia and Rasmus won’t be relatively cheap much longer, either. It’s hard to imagine the 2012 payroll dropping below $110M, although it could normalize in 2013 after the Lohse contract comes off the books. Still, it’s obvious to me that $27.5M a year for one player would really push the team hard. The team can certainly make space for it or even a bit more ($30M+), but that really puts the pressure on the Cardinals to develop more talent within the organization that can be cost-controlled for several seasons. If just one minor league pitcher turns into a #2 or #3 starting pitcher, that could save the team as much as $8-10M a year that it would have to spend on a free agent equivalent.
One final thought about the rumor of AP seeking “Alex Rodriguez-type money”. That’s not the same thing as seeking “Alex Rodriguez-type years”, and that’s a huge difference. If AP signs a contract extension for something like 7 years or 7 years with an 8th year option, then the perspective changes a lot. The thought of committing almost a decade in advance to paying for a player’s age 40 season just doesn’t make a lot of business sense to me. Only on rare occasions does it even make sense when that player actually reaches age 40.
If Albert really does want $27.5M a year, then the Cardinals will probably give it to him. If he wants $30M a year, then the Cardinals will probably cave. If he asks for $30M, a private chef, a daily foot rub from Mo, and the Arch, they’ll have to cut a deal to get him the Arch….but he’ll get it. At that point, I don’t care one way or another as long as the team can remain competitive, and the Arch isn’t renamed “Pujols Home Run Arc” or something silly like that. However, it does seem appropriate that people start referring to mega-deals as “Pujols-type money”, because players should be compared to him and not the other way around.
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