Albert Pujols Rumors: 10 Reasons He Will Be a Chicago Cub in 2012
With the looming "Albert Pujols Extension Deadline" quickly approaching, it was widely believed that the two sides would ultimately not agree in time.
They were simply too far apart in both years and average annual salary, and Pujols may view the open market as a gold mine.
It is never entirely out of the question that an agreement can be reached, but "The Machine" wants no part of a year-long distracting negotiation. He will enter camp without a deal, and subsequently remain without one until season's end.
This inevitably breeds rampant speculation as to his whereabouts in 2012, potential trade packages, what teams can afford him, and whether those teams even have a need at first base.
While taking all of this into account, the most likely landing spot for the star slugger if he chooses to leave, is with the Chicago Cubs.
This piece will analyze the 10 best reasons as to why this will be the case, and will come from both the Cubs and Cardinals perspectives on the matter.
Feel free to let me know how you feel in the comment thread after checking it out, and without further adieu, let's get started.
1. The Cubs Have $55-60 M of Freedom After 2011
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By shedding contracts such as Kosuke Fukudome ($14.5 million), Carlos Silva (approx. $7 million ), Carlos Pena ($10 milion), and potentially Aramis Ramirez ($14.6 million), the Cubs can have around $55-60 million in play during the offseason before arbitration raises are accounted for.
Chicago has never been a city or an organization to penny pinch, and the ownership situation coming into focus reopens the wallets in the “Windy City.”
The opportunity to turn a few expiring contracts they cannot wait to get rid of into the salary of the greatest hitter in MLB will be far too much to pass up.
2. Another $40 M+ of Freedom After 2012
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The initial sting of a possible 10-year, $275-300 million contract will be lessened by the knowledge that an additional $40 million will come off the books after 2012.
The Cubs may soon say goodbye to Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster, and Marlon Byrd (totaling $39.5 million) after the year, which would leave them about $65-70 million to play with even AFTER signing the Cardinals slugger.
This flexibility will allow Chicago to acquire the missing pieces they’ll need in the rotation to pair with Matt Garza moving forward.
3. Pujols’ Career Numbers at Wrigley Field
The NL Central rival has shown no ill will about suiting up in Wrigley Field as a visitor, and it is unlikely any of that would change switching over to the home dugout.
In just 80 games in the historic ballpark, Pujols has compiled 59 R, 25 HR and 64 RBI.
This represents the approximate number of at-bats he would get a season in Wrigley, and are monstrous numbers by any standard.
4. Kill Two “Birds” with One Stone
What is the added advantage of signing one of the best players in the history of MLB?
You get to steal him from right under the nose of your most bitter divisional rival.
At best, losing Pujols would be as debilitating in St. Louis as it is invigorating for the Cubs, and would give them a major leg up in their quest to climb back to the top of the NL Central.
Not only is “The Machine” a historic all-around hitter in his prime, but he is one of the very rare sluggers that hits both for a high average and cannot be pitched around or made to chase.
5. They Need a First Baseman After 2011
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Carlos Pena is only signed to a one-year, $10 million in 2011, and there are no immediate long-term plans at the position.
While Pena is a solid defender and has some serious pop, he is far from a year-to-year reliability, and cannot be considered more than a stop-gap.
Pujols would slide nicely into the middle of the lineup in Chicago, while also playing reasonably efficient defense for the next five years or so.
Beyond that, his bat will more than compensate for his reducing lateral movement, much like a Jason Giambi on steroids (hmm, I’ve never used that phrase in a literal sense before).
6. Contract Demands from the A-Rod Galaxy
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Despite no exact parameters being released to the public regarding Albert’s demands, it is widely believed that he wants something in the neighborhood of 10 years and $275-300 million.
This would place him in rarefied air with Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez, and surpass the $25 million/year recently awarded to Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard—which is essentially inevitable.
Due to their astronomic contract expectations, it is unlikely that St. Louis will be able to keep their home-grown superstar.
This of course does not account for any massive and merciful hometown discount (somewhere in the range of eight years, $200 million).
7. Cardinals Have A Lot of Holes to Fill Moving Forward
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Albert Pujols is the Cardinals first immortal hitter since the great Stan Musial. He is simultaneously beloved, respected, and worshiped. “Irreplaceable” is a laughable understatement of his importance.
That said, the Cardinals will have a lot of holes to fill moving forward—both on offense and in the pitching staff.
Chris Carpenter has an option for 2012, but is closer to retirement age than he is to his prime. Aside from Matt Holliday and Colby Rasmus, there is no offensive firepower of note to build around. Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright are soon due for some fairly pricey extensions as well.
Losing Pujols is something that would take a long time to recover from, but locking up 30 percent of their payroll into one player would prevent them from filling out the rest of the roster well enough to contend.
8. Pressure On Pujols from the Union
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If Pujols did decide to give an extensive hometown discount to the city of St. Louis, it may not only be his fund manager that is a little upset with him.
The players’ union always plays an eye-in-the-sky role in the negotiations for all of MLB’s best of the best.
It is important for these stars to “set the market” so-to-speak, and ensure players after him will also realize an embarrassment of riches.
They fight for each other, and it is expected that years and money will not be left on the table.
9. Pujols’ Age + the St. Louis Mid-Market
I’ve already discussed St. Louis’ inability to reach the speculated demands on their superstar, but there is an even more obvious reason this comes into play on a long-term deal to a 32-year-old in the National League.
Unlike the Yankees situation with Alex Rodriguez, where he can DH at any point during the latter years of the deal to save his body, Pujols would be forced into the field to find at bats.
Additionally, New York’s ever-growing resources keep A-Rod’s contractual liability somewhat limited. While no team can shrug off a $30 million player hobbling around the bases in his 40s, the Yankees are as close to that luxury as possible.
The Cardinals, meanwhile, would absolutely cripple their franchise if Pujols’ body and production betrayed him from 40-42 (let alone 36-40).
The risk is simply far too great to take on in a mid-market environment.
10. Ego and the Infamous “Hero Syndrome”
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Much like the recent New York Knicks argument during the “Summer of Lebron,” the opportunity to play hero is always on the table for Pujols.
If he took a risky leap of faith to the north side of Chicago, he would achieve superhero status if ever delivering a title to a team waiting impatiently since 1908 to achieve one.
Suffering 103 years of frustration is enough to numb any fan base, and judging by the reaction in Boston following the 2004 “breaking of the curse,” Chicago’s return to the top would be beyond magical.