Albert Pujols: Why an Alex Rodriguez Contract Would Cripple the St. Louis Cardinals
Can signing the games best player be the worst decision of your life? The St. Louis Cardinals could find out if they give him Alex Rodriguez money.
The self-imposed contract deadline came and went for the Cardinals slugger. Now, Albert Pujols will walk into the 2011 season without a new contract and the possibility of playing somewhere else next year.
The Cardinals can see the vultures circling. The Cubs, Angels, Dodgers, and Mets are all peaking to see how much it will take to sign the star who seems destined to break Bonds' or Aaron’s record (whichever your revisionist history).
But for all those Cardinal fans who think that a deal must get done above all else, the reality is that unless Pujols gives them a hometown discount, they should let him walk next year. While by comparison Pujols seems to be worth the $30 million he’s said to be looking for, in reality he’s not worth it.
If the Cardinals give in to his demands they’ll be regretting it for years. Let’s break this down.
10. Alex Rodriguez Isn't Worth The Money He's Making Either
Let’s make the case clear here. Free agency isn’t about what anyone is worth. It’s about what you can get. Cliff Lee currently makes more than Albert Pujols. This isn’t because Cliff Lee, who plays 30 games a year, is more valuable than Albert, it’s because it's what he could get.
Look back to when A-Rod signed that first deal in Texas. He didn’t get that money because some master equation revealed that he was worth $25 million a year. The truth was that Texas wanted to make a big splash and thought they could give him that money. It turned out they couldn’t afford it.
When A-Rod re-upped for $275 million, the Yankees paid him what they could, not what he was worth. Now they regret it too. Even if you believed that Pujols was worth that money, then think about this: the Cardinals have been selling out home games since before Pujols came into the picture, so where is he giving them $30 million they weren’t getting before?
I’m not saying he’s not a valuable player, but I am saying that his comparison A-Rod isn’t worth his money- because no one is.
9. Remember St. Louis Isn’t New York
Remember that Texas couldn’t afford A-Rod after they got him; that’s a big reason why they shipped him to New York. New York can afford his albatross contract now, but it doesn’t mean they are happy about it.
I tell you this now, St. Louis cannot afford Pujols to make that kind of money. The Yankees are worth, according to Forbes magazine, $1.6 Billion. They bring in $441 million a year in revenue. This means that Alex Rodriguez makes a total of 6 percent of the Yankees total revenue.
Albert, on the other hand, would make significantly more. The franchise as a whole is worth $488 million (which is almost what the Yankees bring in every year). Their annual revenue is $195 million. Pujols, at $30 million a year, would make 15 percent of their annual revenue. This is almost triple the value of A-Rod’s contract.
8. The Payroll Problem
Let’s assume the Cardinals, who have reported their payroll will be $100 million this year, decide that it’s their payroll limit. Now Albert will make 30 percent of the Cardinals annual payroll.
A-Rod on the other hand, who’s Yankees have a payroll of $194 million, will be making roughly 16 percent again. Once again, the Yankees can “afford” A-Rod. The Cardinals cannot afford to give A-Rod money to Albert.
7. The Matt Holliday Problem
This Albert situation would have been easier had they decided last season to take care of him first and risk losing Matt Holliday. The feeling is either that they thought Albert would give them a hometown discount, or they just figured they needed Holliday and would take care of Albert later.
Either way, the money that Holliday is making ($16 million) could have, in theory, been used to meet the A-Rod requirements. But they didn't do that, and now signing Pujols to big money would put them in a contract nightmare.
Between Albert and Holliday, the Cardinals would be spending $46 million on 2 players. That means, assuming they have a $100 cap, that now the other 23 players can be signed for the remaining $54 million. That means on average, everyone gets $2.34 million.
6. $2.34 Million Won’t Fly
Sure, there are some guys you can get for that bargain basement price. The average salary alone last year was $3.34. There are currently nine other players that have a salary over that. Keep in mind that in the next few years alone, Chris Carpenter, Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright are all going to be looking for new money.
Now the Cardinals may decide that they don’t want any of these guys, but who will they get to replace them?
5. Forget The Farm System
The easiest argument for paying Pujols that money is that the Cardinals have a great coaching staff and they can always build from the farm system. Both are true, but only to an extent.
Dave Duncan and Tony LaRussa have an amazing ability to make a pitcher out of anyone, but there is no telling how long LaRussa will be around for. And once LaRussa goes, it's likely that Duncan goes too- so that’s not a reason for giving Pujols $30 million a year.
The other is their farm system. According to FanHouse.com, the Cardinals have the 17th ranked farm system in all of baseball. It’s considered a farm system on the rise, but they still only have two prospects in the top 100.
Now, all that could change and guys could come through in big ways, but they shouldn't count on that. You can’t plan your organization on what-ifs.
4. Tapped Out Market
The Cardinals are not the Chicago White Sox. What that means is that there are some who think that if they got Albert locked up for a long term deal it could make them more money. However, I contend that they are getting every dime they can out of that city.
If Pujols went to the Sox (which is highly unlikely), Chicago could make the case that they would make more money with Albert, and here’s a quick run down of why: the White Sox are only making $68 million at the gates because they don’t sell out every game. According to Forbes, they are only getting $33 dollars per fan. However, there are 9 million people in the Chicago land area who could be influenced to give more money to the Sox if they got Albert.
The Cardinals, on the other hand, have taken as much as they can out of their fans. Their fans spend an average of $57 dollars a fan. That’s more than the Sox, Yankees, and Phillies all get from their fan base. Simply put, there is no more money to get.
3. Albert's Age
This is a sticking point that needs to stand out. Albert just turned 31. If they sign him to even an 8-year contract he’ll be 39 in the final year.
Now, it needs to be assumed that Albert is clean. He’s never come close to being accused of steroids and so we should trust him on that.
So, assuming he’s clean, you have to also assume he won’t have the kind of production that Bonds had in his late thirties and early forties. Chances are he’ll decline.
In order to put it in perspective I consulted baseball-reference.com to try and find a comparison on Albert’s level. They pointed me to Jimmie Foxx, an all-time great. You can say what you want about the different times they played in, but let's put them in the same category.
Foxx played until he was 37. A lifetime .325 hitter, Foxx averaged well below his career averages in all the major categories from 32 on. Now, I’m not suggesting that Albert has just 1 year left. He has at least 5, but at some point his production will decline. Once that happens, with that money, the Cardinals are stuck.
2. The Players Union
Let’s assume the Cardinals worst fear: that in say 4 years (half way through the estimated deal) Albert's production plummets. Now they have an albatross contract and they can’t do anything about it. Their team will suffer and they won’t have the money to make up for the lack in production from Albert.
Assuming they asked Albert to help them out, and he agreed, there is still little he could do for them. He could defer money if the Players Union allowed it, and that would definitely come with provisions. Even if Albert wanted to be the nice guy who restructures the deal to make less money, the Players Union would never allow it.
Remember when A-Rod tried to take less money to go to Boston? The Players Union would not allow it. So if Albert dips, the Cardinals just have to live through it.
1. You Won’t Win With This Formula
Texas tried it with A-Rod and failed. If the reason for having Albert is that the Cardinals want to win, then he will be counter-productive to gathering rings while he makes that much money. The rest of the National League is getting better and freeing up money.
When the Dodgers get their legal matters fixed they’ll be ready to spend. When the Marlins get their new stadium, the rumor is, they will spend. The Cubs are seeing big money come off the books in the next couple of years. There are teams that will be spending money, but if the Cardinals have Albert they’ll be handcuffed for as long as he’s there.
Albert should get paid the most he can. But if the most is $30 million, then he should get it elsewhere. The Cardinals shouldn’t be that stupid.