Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro flatly denied the rumors, saying, "I don't know who you're talking to, but that's a lie."
Amaro may be denying it, but the idea makes a lot more sense than you would think.
For one, Howard is a St. Louis native, who Cards' fans would immediately fall in love with if he were to don a Cardinals' uniform. Pujols is immensely popular in St. Louis, but if anyone could make St. Louis fans forget about King Albert, it's their own Ryan Howard.
Furthermore, Pujols's current contract expires following the 2011 season, and thus far discussions between Pujols and the Cardinals organization have not gotten very far.
Quite simply, paying that kind of money for Albert Pujols may not be an option for the Cardinals. If that is the case, why not deal him while he is still under contract for a suitable replacement? A suitable replacement like Ryan Howard.
Howard, like Pujols, will be a free agent following the 2011 season. However, while Pujols will likely make a push to be the highest-paid player in baseball history, Howard is likely to sign for something similar to his current $18 million average per season contract.
Ryan Howard is no Albert Pujols. It's a simple comparison of one of the best sluggers in the game, to one of the best sluggers of all-time. However, when you take a close look at the numbers, Howard's production doesn't really pale in comparison to Pujols's.
Over the past three seasons Pujols has averaged a .337 batting average, 108 runs, 39 home runs, and 118 RBI. Over the same three year period, Howard has averaged a .267 average, 101 runs, 47 home runs, and 141 RBI.
Howard is clearly outclassed by Pujols's ability to hit for a tremendous average, but Howard has a distinct advantage in both home runs and RBI.
The idea of trading Albert Pujols is hard to fathom. It's like the Yankees trading Mickey Mantle during his prime or the Red Sox dealing Ted Williams at the height of his career.
However, before you write off the idea as being insane, ask yourself: "Would the Cardinals be better off holding onto Pujols for two more seasons and getting nothing in return when he walks? Or, are they better off dealing him for a suitable replacement while he is still under contract?"
It's hard to believe, but trading Albert Pujols may be the best thing for the Cardinals organization.