There are some athletes in today’s world of sports that will seemingly never play for a team other than their current club.
Certain players are synonymous with their teams, and wrapping one’s head around the notion that they may play for a different team is just not plausible.
The likes of Tom Brady, Kobe Bryant, Derek Jeter, Peyton Manning and Albert Pujols could each be placed in this category.
However, there was once a time when seeing Brett Favre, Michael Jordan, or Joe Montana in a different uniform was thought to be ludicrous.
Pujols is St. Louis. He has spent his entire career as a Cardinal, brought them a title, is the face of the franchise and his charitable work around the community has done wonders to endear himself to St. Louis residents.
Pujols is a free agent after the coming MLB season; negotiations with the team have not been progressing and a potential doomsday scenario is fast approaching for Cardinals fans.
Many members of Cardinal faithful would struggle to find the meaning of life in a Pujols-less world.
While it is quite likely Pujols re-signs with St. Louis to finish his career a Cardinal, there is the distinct possibility the best player in the game today takes a more lucrative offer to play elsewhere, ala LeBron James.
Here are the five most likely destinations if Pujols were to hit the open market.
You just scoffed. Don’t scoff.
The Orioles have a realistic chance of inking Pujols to a deal, if he doesn’t return to the Cardinals.
Aside from recent success, or lack thereof in Baltimore’s case, there are plenty of similarities between the two franchises.
Both have rich traditions, full of hall-of-famers. The Cardinals have Bob Gibson, Stan Musial and Ozzie Smith. Baltimore boasts Cal Ripken Jr., Brooks Robinson and Frank Robinson. They both are nestled in average-size markets and they each play home games in one of the better stadiums in baseball.
The Cardinals may have vastly better attendance, but where Baltimore trails St. Louis in attendance, they make up for it with deeper pockets.
Owner Peter Angelos has the Orioles in a very financially stable state, with plenty of money to spend.
Using that money to sign the greatest hitter in all of baseball would increase tickets sales, ever-so-slightly for the franchise.
Derrek Lee is Baltimore’s current first baseman, but he is likely a one and done Oriole.
Pujols could also serve as a designated hitter if he becomes an Oriole.
The thought of Albert Pujols suiting up for any team not named the Cardinals is a scary enough thought for Cardinals fans. The thought of Pujols donning a Chicago Cubs jersey would be a catastrophe for the Cardinals and their fans.
Pujols taking the field at the Friendly Confines for the hometown Lovable Losers would be tougher for St. Louis to stomach than it was for Cleveland’s fans, who watched helplessly as LeBron took his talents elsewhere.
As scary as the thought may be, the notion of Pujols playing for the North Siders is not nearly as far-fetched as Cardinals fans may like to think.
The Cubs current first baseman is Carlos Pena, who recently signed a one-year deal worth $10 million. Yes, the going rate for players who hit .196 in a contract year is now apparently $10 million.
One year and ten million wasted dollars from now, Pena will no longer be a Cub and they will need another first baseman.
Forking over the money Pujols desires would not be an issue for the Cubs. A major-market team that for some reason puts people in seats, regardless of the team’s record, would be very attractive to a player accustomed to large crowds at Busch Stadium.
The fact that Pena only received a one-year deal leads to further speculation that the Cubs could be positioning themselves to land Pujols.
The Angels finished under .500 last season for the first time since 2003. Their offense struggled and they lack a quality first baseman.
Adding the greatest hitter of this era would cure those three problems faster than the Rally Monkey can clap its hands.
The Angels have money available to spend and the Los Angeles market is huge.
The Angels were mentioned in the list of teams Pujols told the Cardinals he would approve a trade to. Pujols has been said to enjoy Southern California.
Being an American League team may also aid the Angels’ cause, as playing in the AL would allow Pujols to spare himself some wear and tear by serving as DH a few years down the road.
Inserting Pujols into a lineup already featuring Torii Hunter, Howie Kendrick and Vernon Wells would give the Angels a very formidable middle-of-the-order.
After back-to-back NL West titles, the Dodgers took a giant step backwards in 2010, finishing with a sub .500 record for the first time in five years.
The organization has been in disarray, as the McCourt’s divorce and ensuing legal battle have left the team’s finances in limbo.
Yes, it is a murky situation at the moment. And yes, the team is still a front-runner to land Pujols if he hits the market.
The Dodgers are one of baseball’s most historic franchises, and play in one of the game’s largest markets.
Once the divorce case has been settled, and it will before the 2012 season, the Dodgers will have money to spend.
Manny Ramirez’s $20 million contract is off the books, and Rafael Furcal’s $12 million salary will be gone after this season as well.
These moves, combined with a would-be-trade of James Loney, would free up plenty of space to sign Pujols.
Pujols would go down as a legend in Dodger history, right next to the likes of Sandy Koufax and Jackie Robinson.
There is one team on this list that calls New York home. That team plays its home games in Queens, not the Bronx.
The Mets have struggled the past two seasons, compiling a record of 149-175 during that span. Omar Minaya is out as GM, and former Toronto GM J.P. Ricciardi has taken over the reigns.
Ricciardi and new manager Terry Collins realize excellence is an expectation in the Big Apple, and adding Albert Pujols to the fold would instantly remove the Mets offense from the cellar of National League offensive categories.
The Mets ranked near the bottom of every offensive category last season.
Youngster Ike Davis, who is looking to build on his impressive rookie campaign, currently holds down first for New York.
While Davis does have a high ceiling, he is by no means Albert Pujols.
Trading Davis away would bring the Mets very solid pieces to add to the roster.
The Mets have the money to sign Pujols, and could use new Citi Field and their market-size to entice Fat Albert to come to the Big Apple.