Let's be serious for just a little while.
Albert Pujols is (whether you believe it or not) the face of the Cardinals' respective franchise, and that's just how things are. And if a new contract is not offered to St. Louis' sporting savior, Pujols will not be involved in contract negotiations through Spring Training, nor the regular season.
This is a problem.
As much as you'd love to disagree with the fact that Pujols is the most important asset the Cardinals currently attain, the fact of the matter is that it is true.
Here are five of the most essential reasons why St. Louis must seal-up Pujols—no matter what the cost.
It's apparent that the NL Central is improving all aspects of the notion—and if Pujols leaves a Cardinals ball club in desperate need of his services, it's tough to imagine St. Louis as a World Series contender, or a playoff contender, for that matter.
With every team in the NL Central bolstering their respective rosters (with exception to Pittsburgh, of course) this offseason, the Cardinals will already have their hands full.
In addition to the fact that the Reds, Brewers and Cubs are teams on the rise with and abundance of prospering talent, can the Cardinals maintain their NL Central swagger without Pujols in the lineup?
Since his rookie season of 2001, Pujols has averaged 42 HR, 128 RBI and a .331 batting average each season, making him one of the hottest commodities in the sporting world today, as far as offensive production goes.
If the Cardinals are not able to lock up their iconic image (at whatever the cost may be), it's safe to say that St. Louis would be in a world of hurt.
Sure, fans will continue to file into the seats of Busch Stadium on a regular basis, but would they really be as boastful about their hometown squad sans Pujols?
According to reports from SI.com, Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday (given the right condition) would be willing to defer some of his own salary if the club needed it to sign Pujols to an even larger deal.
Holliday, who is just 13 months removed from his own record-setting contract signing, may be thinking of trading spaces to another city should Pujols choose to test the free-agent market at the end of the 2011 season.
This is not a good situation for the Cardinals.
If a deal is not completed with Pujols before the start of the season, it may just cost the franchise both of their most essential talents.
The Cardinals have become perennial playoff contenders since Pujols first entered the league in 2001. And in a span of just 10 seasons, Pujols has played an immeasurable role within the Cardinals' World Series campaigns of the last decade.
But let's be honest with each other: Can the Cardinals actually afford to lose such a talent?
Possibly. However, can we put a price on offensive production and, most importantly, winning?
The answer to that question lies within the confines of St. Louis' front office.
We'll just have to wait it out and see.
If you cannot put a price to winning, then St. Louis may as well pay Pujols the 10-year, $300 million contract he's craving. And with the numbers the guy has managed thus far in his illustrious, Hall of Fame career, he's certainly well-deserving of such a profit.
What it all comes down to is this: Are the Cardinals willing to possibly overpay their iconic talent?
Assuming that winning is the foremost commodity in the sporting world, then the Cardinals will just have to re-sign Pujols.
Let the games begin.