Saturday, February 19, 2011

Will Albert Walk? The End Of An Era In St. Louis

The deadline for Albert Pujols' contract talks has passed and the two sides have yet to come to an agreement. None the less, there is still no indication that Pujols will lift that deadline to discuss his contract at any point during the season. Sports Illustrated reported that the Cardinals had offered the 3-time MVP an eight contract worth over $200 million but Albert was seeking a ten year deal worth $300 million. A deal of that magnitude would make Pujols the highest paid player in league history, both on a per year basis as well as total salary, surpassing Alex Rodriguez's 10-year $275 million deal with the Yankees

Signing a player for ten years and investing $300 million for that one guy is absurd, even if he is the best player in the league. Pujols feels he deserves more money than Ryan Howard, who just signed a 5-year $125 million contract ($25 mill a year) with the Phillies, and in reality he does because Pujols is a much better player than Howard. But no player is worth $300 million, no matter how great he is and no matter how many records he is going to break. The smart move for the Cardinals would be to let Albert walk when the time comes, unless he is willing to give St. Louis a very large home-town discount.

I bet the Yankees are looking at Alex's contract and regretting how much money the invested, especially since they will be still be paying A-Rod $27.5 million when he is 42 years old. Albert is currently 31 years old and would also be 40+ years old at the end of a potential ten-year contract. Although the Yankees can afford to pay any amount of money they know the last four years of that contract will be absolutely brutal to look at. There is no doubt that Alex Rodriguez will be out of his prime and on the back end of his career when he his current ten year deal expires in 2017. We need to remember how Alex Rodriguez ended up in New York, Texas could not afford to pay Alex and did not want to take on such a big investment. Of course Albert will not end up with the Yankees but there are other teams who have the financial ability to pay Pujols, like Chicago, Los Angeles, and even the Mets.

The Yankees are worth over a billion dollars and bring in $441 million worth of revenue each year. In comparison, the Cardinals are only worth $488 million total and bring in $195 million a season. Those numbers show that the Yankees make almost as much money per year as the entire Cardinal franchise is worth ($441 mill vs. $488 mill). So relatively speaking, paying Albert $30 million a year would take up 15% of the Cardinal's revenue, while the Yankees only use 6% of their annual revenue to pay Alex Rodriguez. The Cardinals cannot pretend that they are a "big market" team like the Yankees or Red Sox. Again, relatively a team like the Yankees can "afford" to pay players $20-$30 million a year because their payroll is almost 50% higher than teams like the Cardinals (Yankees=$194 million payroll, Cardinals= $100 million payroll).

In addition the Cardinals re-signed outfielder Matt Holliday to a seven-year $120 million dollar contract, the richest contract in the illustrious history of the St. Louis Cardinals, and would be devoting almost 50% of their payroll on only two players. It is unclear why the Cardinals decided to lock up Holliday before Pujols but the Cardinals cannot field well rounded team with only $54 million dollar left to spend, that would only be $2.34 million per player. In 2010 Matt Holliday put up .312 BA, 28 HR, and 103 RBIs and the Cardinals would be able to add two players of similar caliber rather than spend on $30 million on Albert (.312 BA, 42 HR, and 118 RBIs). Another problem is that other current players will be free agents in the upcoming years and undoubtedly seek more than $2.34 million. These players include Adam Wainwright, Yadier Molina, and Chris Carpenter. Locking up their pitching staff and adding two or three solid hitters would better for the franchise long term.

The Cardinals have always been known for developing young talent out of their farm system with smart coaches like Tony LaRussa and pitching coach Dave Duncan. But the Cardinal's farm system only ranks 17th in the league, with only two prospects in the top 100. This shows how the team cannot solely depend on their young players and will need to acquire talent through free agency. Albert is the face of the franchise, and the face of St. Louis, but the Cardinals are already very hyped and proven to be a winning team, whether Pujols stays or goes they have already tapped out the market to its fullest extend. The Yankees have the highest pay roll in all of sports but they still don't win year after year. Teams like the Padres and Giants are winning games based on good pitching and by playing "money ball".

The usual big spenders have no need at first base. The team that spends the most money out of anyone, the Yankees, locked up Mark Texiera for 8 years and $180 million back in 2008. The Phillies just signed Ryan Howard for the next 5 seasons at $25 a year. And in all likelihood the Red Sox will retain newly acquired first baseman Adrien Gonzalez for $20+ million a year in a long-term contract. Those are the top 3 spenders in the MLB and other teams like the Mets are in very bad financial situations. The potential suiters would be either of the Chicago teams or LA teams but those clubs also have big name guys to pay.

In the end the Cardinals need to think about their long-term financial situation. 10 years at $30 million dollars would be a constraint on this franchise for generations. What if Albert gets hurt? What if his production drops after 3 or 4 seasons? What if steroid allegations come out? These are all things we have seen happen to super star athletes in the blink of an eye. Will any team be willing to pay that high price? Would they be bidding against themselves? Players like Albert Pujols come along once in a lifetime but St. Louis needs to start considering life after Albert as a realistic possibility.

Here are some examples of what $30 million could buy you in the MLB...

1. Prince Fielder ($15 mill) and Justin Morneau ($13 mill)
2. Jake Peavy ($17 mill) and Chris Carpenter ($13 mill)
3. Joey Votto ($12 mill), Dustin Pedroia ($7 mill), and Hanley Ramirez ($11 mill)
4. Josh Hamilton ($12 mill), Carlos Gonzalez ($11 mill), and Hunter Pence ($7 mill)
5. In 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2007 the entire Tampa Bay (Devil) Ray's pay roll was under $30 million dollars
6. The entire 2011 Tampa Bay Ray's starting lineup
7. The entire 2011 San Diego Padres roster (all major league level contracts minus signing bonuses)
8. The entire 2011 Pittsburgh Pirates roster (all major league level contracts minus signing bonuses)
9. The 2001 Oakland Athletics roster (who went 102-60 and made it to the ALDS)
10. Babe Ruth's highest year salary 400 times

No comments:

Post a Comment