"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Signing Albert Pujols

Now that the Super Bowl is over, and before "March Madness" heats up, the next order of business is for the St. Louis Cardinals to re-sign Albert Pujols to a long-term deal that will keep him in St. Louis for the rest of his career.   The stakes are huge.  For Albert, he wants and deserves to be the highest paid player in baseball.   His career numbers speak for themselves:  his average year for the past ten years has been 41 HRs, 123 RBIs, and a .331 batting average.   In more "advanced statistical" measures, Pujols is also ridiculous: a lifetime OPS (on base plus slugging) of 1.050 and an average WAR (wins against replacement) of 8.4 per year.   For the Cardinals the stakes are even higher.  Pujols is an icon in St. Louis, probably the most beloved Cardinal since Stan Musial.  He has to be re-signed.  But at what cost?   If you pay Pujols too much, you won't be able to pay enough good players around him to be competitive.   And Pujols will be 32 when the contract starts.   How long can you afford him and when will he start the inevitable decline phase of his career (even harder to figure now in the post-steroids era).   In year four of the contract, at age 35, will Pujols be worth $30 million?   Will he still be an elite player?   And, as a first baseman, he plays a position where you can find cheaper substitutes who can give you 25-30 HRs and 90-100 RBIs.  

In any event, Pujols is in the driver's seat.   My offer would be something like the following.   $30 million a year for five years (paying for Pujols' prime at a level that would make him the highest paid player in baseball history).  $20 million a year for 3 years after that (paying a slightly discounted amount for Pujols' decline phase, which should still be pretty good since he's so good to begin with).   $10 million a year for 2 years for Pujols' swan song years.   Then $3 million a year for 40 years after that to serve as the Cardinals' elder statesman and "special consultant."   Total value is $350 million, which again would make it the biggest contract in baseball history, but you wouldn't be overpaying him and skewing your payroll in his declining years.


Here is an article from the Post-Dispatch about a nice evening Pujols had with a local family who won a dinner cooked by Dee-Dee Pujols at Albert's charity golf outing.   This kind of thing may be marginally manufactured by a good PR guy for Albert, and it appears suspiciously at a fairly crucial moment in the negotiations (Albert has said that he won't negotiate once spring training starts), but it still highlights how attached the community is to Pujols, and how horrible it would be if he left.  

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