Albert Pujols plays his home games in the shadow of the gateway to the American West, but with only a few days left before the deadlin, Pujols imposed upon negotiations for a contract extension, he and the St. Louis Cardinals are as far apart as the East is from the West.
That gulf likely will leave Pujols without a contract for 2012 entering the season, and could well make him a free agent next winter.
If he makes it to those greener pastures, Pujols has a real chance at some very real green—
$30 million annually over a minimum of eight years is the asking price that has set him so much at odds with his longtime employer. Pujols is the best hitter of his generation and may be the best all-around player of the past two decades.
Still, is he worth the rough equivalent of the Kansas City Royals' projected 2011 payroll?
Obviously, that question distorts the real issue: Pujols is the best player in the game, and in the modern baseball economy, that means he has the right to pursue the league's richest contract. Since Alex Rodriguez (10 years and $275 million) set that bar pretty high in 2007, Pujols will at least approach $30 million as an average annual salary.
Still, if that number doesn't pop your eyes enough in isolation, consider this lineup of nine players who can be had in 2011 for less than $30 million.