Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Is Pujols Worth It?
If Pujols' demand is for $30 million a year for 10 years, in a word, no. Pujols will be 32 in the first year of his new contract. If you pay him, you'll have a right to expect him to put up all-time great years for that amount of money. But, of the 150 highest OPS years in baseball history for hitters (on base average plus slugging average), only 34 (roughly 22%) occurred when the player was 32 or older. Of the Top 50 OPS years, only two happened when the player was 37 or older, and both were by Barry Bonds when he was, shall we say, doing some suspicious things. And, the three players who Pujols' career most resembles through age 30 (again, through the miracle of online baseball statistics) -- Jimmie Foxx, Frank Robinson and Ken Griffey, Jr. -- had a grand total of 17 seasons between them with an OPS of 1.000 or more and none of them occurred when they were 32 years old or older.
The Cardinals were extraordinarily smart and lucky when they signed Pujols to his current eight-year deal in 2004, locking him up for $111 million through his prime. Pujols, in turn, traded the potential of hitting it even bigger for the security of that deal, when he was only three years into his career. He's been paid extraordinarily well in real terms, but less certainly than he was worth during an historic first ten years (years in which he posted 8 years with an OPS of 1.000 or more) The Cardinals won that deal. It happens when parties enter into contracts. But the Cardinals would be foolish from a business perspective to assume that Pujols will continue to produce at that level from age 32 through age 41. It hasn't happened without steroids in the history of baseball.
I'm really sad to say this, because I've enjoyed watching Pujols so much, but I think the Cardinals are going to have to let him walk.