The sky is falling in St. Louis today after the deadline has passed for the St. Louis Cardinals to sign Albert Pujols to a contract extension.
Pujols’ current contract ends after the 2011 season. The Cardinals apparently made an offer to Pujols before his self-imposed deadline that offered somewhere between $19 to $21 million per season, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOXsports.com, although Rosenthal didn’t say how many years the offered contract was for. In any event, Pujols and his agent Dan Lozano passed on the offer.
It’s been previously reported that Pujols is seeking a contract in the neighborhood of 10 years, $300 million, which would make him the highest-paid player in baseball.
ESPN reported today that the major holdup in negotiations is the amount of money the Cardinals offered, not the number of years. It seems the Cardinals are a little uncomfortable in their ability to compete for World Series titles if so much of their payroll is locked up in one player.
Now the question is can the Cardinals and Pujols reach an agreement at some point during the season or after the season, or will Prince Albert be wearing new threads in 2012?
I predict the Prince will be manning first base in St. Louis in 2012. But it won’t be Prince Albert. It will be Prince Fielder.
Fielder, currently the first baseman for the Milwaukee Brewers, is the final year of his contract this season, and the Brewers have indicated they probably won’t be able to resign him after the season.
Reports surfaced last spring that Fielder will be seeking a deal in the neighborhood of eight years, $200 million.
However, if Pujols tests the free agent market this offseason, Fielder might have to lower his asking price.
Think about it. There aren’t that many teams with the money to sign either Pujols or Fielder.
Of the teams that do have the necessary bankroll, the Yankees already have Mark Teixeira, the Red Sox have Adrian Gonzalez, the Phillies have Ryan Howard and the Tigers have Miguel Cabrera. None of those teams need to spend more money on a stud first baseman.
Of the handful of teams left with the bankroll to sign someone like Prince Albert or Prince Fielder, most of those teams are probably going to covet Albert more.
That could set the table for the Cardinals to swoop in and grab Fielder for a deal in the neighborhood of seven years for $140 million.
And would that really be so bad? No, Fielder isn’t the same caliber player as Pujols. But he isn’t a chump.
Also, Fielder will be 27 years old at the end of the season. Pujols will be 32.
In Fielder’s six-year career in the big leagues, he has averaged:
* .279 batting average.
* .385 on-base percentage
In the past five years (which excludes his 2005 debut season when he appeared in just 39 games), he’s also averaged:
* 38 home runs per year
* 105.2 RBI per year
* 32 doubles per year
In Pujols’ 10-year career, he has averaged:
* .331 batting average
* 426 on-base percentage
* 40.8 home runs per year
* 123 RBI per year
* 42.6 doubles per year
Yes, Pujols is a fair bit better player, but based on their age gap, how much longer will he stay significantly better than Fielder?
Looking at it differently, Pujols has averaged 8.06 wins above replacement per season during his 10-year career, according to fangraphs.com. Fielder has averaged 4.06 wins above replacement during the past five seasons. How many extra millions are those four wins above replacement worth? And couldn’t the Cardinals make up for some of those lost wins by using that leftover money they would have saved by signing Fielder rather than Pujols to sign another impact bat or pitcher?
The Cardinals might very well still sign Pujols. However, if they don’t, I think the organization will want to sign a quality first baseman to quickly try to quiet the fan base. In my mind, Fielder could be that player.