Before the season began, Major League Baseball was already stirring about the possibility of a blockbuster trade that would send the St. Louis Cardinals' star first baseman, Albert Pujols, to the Philadelphia Phillies for Ryan Howard.
The deal never materialized, leaving fans to wonder if a trade for Pujols was imminent.
There are several reasons why the Cardinals would be looking to deal the slugger and perennial All-Star.
First, Pujols will be entering the final year of a seven year, $100 million contract in 2011. He is expected to be requesting a contract at the end of that season that would rival Alex Rodriguez's contract figures. The Cardinals are well aware of how difficult it will be to afford him. Their market simply isn't big enough to fit him in their payroll without significant cuts.
Add in the massive contract they tendered to retain Matt Holliday, a possible subliminal message that they aren't planning to keep Pujols until season's end, and the doubting ensues.
Secondly, the Cardinals need pitching in the back of their rotation. Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright carry the load for the Red Birds, and a solid rotation could help them pick up extra games down the stretch.
Additionally, help on the left side of the infield and right side of the outfield couldn't hurt.
Finally, prospects in the minor league system that would come over in a Pujols deal could provide insurance for the future. The Cardinals' stars are aging, and the upper management for the team has expressed concerns to stay in the spotlight, and push for a title.
The Los Angeles Dodgers thus far this season have been up and down, and severely lack consistency in the starting rotation, bullpen and offensive production with runners in scoring position. Granted, we are only a week in to the season, but the Dodgers need help.
LA has a solid fielding first baseman in James Loney, and plenty of talent in their farm system. If "Pujols to LA" is a possibility, the Dodgers would most likely have to give up the potential All-Star they have at first base, and most likely a starting pitcher plus prospects.
It would be a high price to pay to add production in the line-up, but throw in Ned Colletti's uncanny ability to find experienced talent down the stretch, and it is possible the Boys in Blue could manage it.
Of course there are several remaining factors in this situation that stand in the way. The ongoing divorce between Frank McCourt and his wife is a continued distraction that leaves the Dodgers with doubts about having the funds to afford massive contracts. We have already seen how conservative the Dodgers were during the off-season.
Secondly, Manny Ramirez is still in left field and the Dodgers still owe him $20 million. Manny exercised his 2010 option, thus hindering the Dodgers ability to sign significant free agents during the off-season. The option also hinders the Dodgers' ability to bring in a major star during 2010.
If the Dodgers are unable to bring in Pujols during 2010, it will become increasingly difficult to obtain the slugger. There will be several other teams campaigning for his services, and he will most likely go to the highest bidder.
The $20 million Ramirez will vacate, as he moves in to a Designated Hitter role with a new club next season, will certainly help LA, but it appears as though Pujols would fit the mold for this season, as the Dodgers are anticipating finding themselves near the top of the division near the end of this season.
It is no secret that the Dodgers will most likely target experienced pitching and help at second base down the stretch, but some of those issues may be lessened with the addition of offense in the line-up. Not only does Pujols drive in runs, but he garnishes walks from intimidated pitchers and changes the strategy of his opponents. He also has an extensive knowledge of the game, and his experience could help out a youthful Dodgers roster.
Under Joe Torre's leadership and Don Mattingly's insight, Pujols would only retain his reputation and write his name in the Dodger's history books, alongside Jackie Robinson, Sandy Koufax and Kirk Gibson's infamous home run.
Most of the speculation regarding Pujols coming to Chavez Ravine may be just wishful thinking; there are so many factors that would deny a deal such as this. Nonetheless, Pujols would be a good fit in Los Angeles, and obviously fans would embrace the "best hitter of our era."