It seems like a ridiculous statement to make, but at $100 million ($116 million since St. Louis exercised their 2011 option) over the term of his last contract, Albert Pujols was an absolute steal for the Cardinals. It is safe to assume that his next contract will not be quite the bargain for the team that winds up signing him this coming off season.
Speculation will follow Pujols throughout the season about his next team and contract if he is unable to reach a deal with the Cardinals before the start of Spring Training. There is little doubt he will have multiple options in the off season. The Yankees, Angels, Dodgers, Giants, Mets and Cardinals all would have the ability to sign Pujols (the Giants and Mets are my own speculation, while the other teams have been publicly speculated to have interest). Just to throw in my two cents, I believe Pujols will eventually resign with the St. Louis Cardinals, although I do expect him to fully explore free agency if no deal is reached this spring.
Early rumors have Pujols seeking a ten year contract worth as much as $30 million per season, or $300 million in total value. If Pujols finds an employer willing to spend this amount of money to include him in their lineup for the next decade he will push Alex Rodriguez out of the record book for largest contract in baseball history. Alex Rodriguez and Albert Pujols will likely wind up at the top of several all time lists by the time their two playing careers have finished, so it is fitting that they would wind up the number one and two highest paid players in the game. Is Pujols deserving of the higher salary? Or should "A-Rod" remain baseball's richest annual player?
Who Deserves to be Baseball's Highest Paid?
A quick glance at the back of his baseball card, or Internet site of your choice, will give you all the information you need about Albert Pujol's importance to the Cardinal organization since his debut in 2001. Pujols has been the most dominant player in the National League over the past decade. He has won three MVP awards and would have won more if not for Barry Bonds. Pujols has also finished second in MVP voting four times in his career. He is an annual staple at the All-Star game, making the roster in all but one of his professional seasons, and he ranks second all time in Cardinals history for RBI behind only Stan Musial.
Rodriguez has also had his fair share of success in the league, playing for the Mariners, Rangers and Yankees. A-Rod is also a three time MVP, thirteen time All-Star, and is sixth on the career home run list with 613 round trippers.
Both players have helped their team to one World Series Championship.
Alex Rodriguez has been in the league seven years longer than Pujols, giving him considerably higher career totals. For the sake of comparing their production, we will focus on the years they were both in the league, and then just for fun, we'll take into consideration each players' career statistics through age 30. Alex Rodriguez actually has a 188 game advantage over Pujols before he turned 30, so again the numbers understandably come out in favor of Alex Rodriguez in most categories.
Before the age of 30 Rodriguez had amassed more hits (2067 to 1900), more runs (1358 to 1186), more RBI (1347 to 1230) and more home runs (468 to 408). Pujols, however, has the better career batting average (.331 to .305), better on base percentage (.426 to .371), slugging percentage (.624 to 0.537). While Rodriguez has the edge here in the numbers that traditionally show up on the all-time lists, Pujols has had more success in his opportunities, although the two players are fairly close.
Albert has managed to keep his name clear through all the steroid controversy dating back to the BALCO investigation and beyond, a claim A-Rod can not make. Rodriguez publicly admitted to steroid use after the media published a list of players, with A-Rod on the top, who tested positive for steroids during the 2003 season. Rodriguez was also implicated in the steroid scandal in the second book written by Jose Canseco. In the minds of many fans, Rodriguez's career statistics are tainted by his inclusion in the steroid scandal, and there will always remain doubt about just how much the steroids aided his statistics.
Alex Rodriguez likely will wind up at the top of home run list, breaking the record set by Barry Bonds, before his playing career is complete. He will also finish with over 3000 career hits, a number he should reach within the next three seasons, if not sooner. Steroid controversy aside, Alex Rodriguez has earned his contract in comparison to baseball's other $20 million annual players.
Unfortunately for Rodriguez, his controversial personality has likely cost him several endorsement deals, and marketing opportunities within Major League Baseball (don't get me wrong, he still does very well). A series of on and off field incidents have given critics plenty of opportunities to bash Rodriguez throughout his career.
Albert Pujols will likely wind up the player most capable of challenging the numbers and records set by Alex Rodriguez. He will restore credibility to the record books as he is widely considered to be a clean player. He is more marketable to both his eventual employer and Major League Baseball as he approaches each milestone. And for the fans, he is much easier to stand behind and openly root for.
If we are to assume that Alex Rodriguez is worth the $275 Million, ten year deal he signed with the New York Yankees, then Albert Pujols is worth every penny of the $300 Million, ten year deal he is seeking this off season.
Here's to hoping Albert starts knocking Rodriguez down the all-time lists starting this off season by dropping A-Rod to number two on the highest paid list. Albert, you deserve it!