Albert Pujols is the best first baseman in the MLB. He may even be the best of all-time, but as Pujols and the St. Louis Cardinals tried to reach a contract extension before spring training, Pujols made it evident that he wants more money, and he's not scared to test the free agent market.
As Pujols entered spring training, he said that negotiations are over, and that he doesn't want this to follow him throughout the season. The Cardinals have made one formal offer, which he declined, and at this point, we don't know what Albert will decide. "I want to be a Cardinal forever. That's my goal."
Ultimately, we have no idea where Pujols will land next season, but I'm going to count down from 30 to one the teams according to their chances at landing this slugger.
I'm not going to refer as much as to who likes him, who doesn't like him and who does or doesn't have the money, these will be mostly based on who just flat out needs him.
The Phillies have one of the best sluggers in the MLB with Ryan Howard. Howard is about the same age as Pujols, and they also just signed him to a $125 million extension last year.
Howard is loyal to Philadelphia, and there's no way that the organization would want to trade him or replace him. Howard has been a key part of the Phillies and their World Series runs in the past few years. Bottom line is, Pujols is not going to Philly.
Last year, Joey Votto broke out in the MLB, and had an amazing season. The Reds are lucky to have found such a talent at the first base position. Votto, who's 27, still has room to expand his talents from last season.
With a .310 BA and 30 home runs, he is also the only other third baseman besides Pujols to have a stolen base last season.
The Reds will stick with what worked last season, and won't ruin their chances with Votto as they attempt a playoff run in 2011.
The Boston Red Sox have acquired slugger Adrian Gonzalez from the San Diego Padres, and are exercising their 2011 option for him. Although Gonzalez will be a free agent in 2012, like Pujols, Gonzalez will be offered a load of cash to stay in Boston, because they need another household name on their roster.
Gonzalez, who totalled 30 HR and accumulated a .280 BA last season will be beneficial to a successful season for the Sox in 2011. If Gonzalez can lead the Sox to a successful season, he won't be going anywhere in 2012, and Pujols will not be hitting 'em over the Green Monster.
Brewers' slugger Prince Fielder won't be a Brewer forever, as even last year trade rumors about sending Fielder to different teams were everywhere.
The Brewers avoided arbitration with Fielder this season, signing a one-year, $15.5 million contract, but he will be a free agent in 2012.
Although Fielder won't be a Brewer in 2012, he won't be a free agent either. Brewer is going to be traded somewhere this season for a few prospects that the Brewers can really use, and they'll find somebody within the organization to take over first base. Sorry Milwaukee, but no Pujols for you either.
Paul Konerko is a hero to White Sox fans, and he's going to be that way for a long time. Konerko, who batted .270 last season with 30 HR, was a game changer for the Chicago White Sox.
Konerko was signed last December to a new contract, which will last through 2014 (or $1 million increments from 2014-2020).
Although Konerko is old, he is one of the best players in the MLB, and he does have a fresh contract. So I would guess that you won't see Pujols in the Windy City anytime soon. Well, not in a White Sox uniform anyways...
The Washington Nationals recently overpaid free agent Adam LaRoche to a three-year deal. LaRoche will most likely not be traded like Dunn, and the Nationals fans will probably welcome the 20 home runs he had last year to their organization.
After the LaRoche era is over, we're talkin' 2013, Nationals' first overall pick Bryce Harper could be a potential candidate for the first base job.
As of now, Harper is playing outfield in the minors, but was predominantly a catcher in high school and college. Because of Harper's abilities as a catcher, you have to assume that he could pick up first base in a matter of weeks.
All in all, the Nationals have way to many options at first to try and pursue an aging, expensive star.
Not much to say here. Ike Davis is a great young player for the Mets. Davis is 23 years old, had a .270 BA and 20 home runs last year, boasting 80 RBI and will only improve.
The Mets organization will not pursue such an expensive asset with such a young player already playing great ball, so unless Ike has an absolutely horrific season, don't expect the Mets to part ways with Davis, or even consider pursuing Pujols.
Adam Lind was outstanding last season for the Blue Jays. Lind sported a .280 batting average and hit 25 dingers.
With Lind signed with the Jays through 2016, I can't begin to think that the Jays would consider looking into signing someone like Pujols. And Quite frankly... I don't think the Dominican wants to play in Canada.
The Atlanta Braves are in the same boat as the New York Mets with Ike Davis. The Braves have a young star in first baseman Freddie Freeman.
Freeman is only 21 years old, and is only going to improve. In fact, Freeman is one of the best prospects in the league this season.
In his rookie year, he hit .280 with 15 home runs, so again, unless he just doesn't work out, plays awfully or has a career changing injury, the Braves won't be calling Pujols anytime soon.
After watching the Cleveland Indians be diminished last season, I don't feel like anything related to sports is going in a positive direction in Cleveland.
LaPorta is not a great player, he's not a bad player. Matt LaPorta is very average when it comes to comparing him to the other players at his position. And with a few concerns about his health, I think the Indians would be helped out a lot by the signing of Pujols.
I may be hating on Cleveland a bit right now (congratulations on beating the Lakers), but I think the Indians have a few more slow years in front of them before they start chasing some big names.
As we approach the less than interesting middle of the pack teams, the Tampa Bay Rays are the perfect way to start it out.
After losing some big-time players this off-season, the Tampa Bay Rays are going to see what they can do next season before considering making a drastic move with someone like Pujols. Johnson can do his job in Tampa, and he won't disappoint the fans there.
If they Rays were in last place at the end of next season, we may hear some rumors, but don't expect there to be any offers from the Rays in front of Pujols next December.
Minnesota is going to be a great team this season. They always are, despite the fact that they cannot beat the Yankees for the life of them.
Manager of the year Ron Gardenhire is optimistic about the return of former MVP Justin Morneau after his season ending concussion in Toronto early last season. But if the sluggers career is horrifically ended some how by this accident, the Twins have options. Cuddyer did a great job at first base last season filling in for Morneau, and even talks about Mauer moving to first have stirred in the Twin Cities.
The only way I see Pujols going to Minnesota is if Morneau's career is over (unlikely), Michael Cuddyer doesn't stay with the Twins (more unlikely) and Joe Mauer's knee moves him to DH for the rest of his career (very unlikely). The Twins would also need to supply a juicy contract for the slugger, and after struggling to keep Mauer in his home town, it'd be nearly impossible for them to sign Albert. (unlikely)
The Oakland A's are young, they have a lot of potential talent on their team and in their farm system. Daric Barton is cheap, and has a lot of potential.
Barton is 25 years old, had a .260 BA last season and hit 10 HR. If the A's can develop him to his full potential, the A's don't need to pursue expensive players. Expect them to continue to rebuild their franchise and try to make a playoff run in the next few years.
The Astros have said that they hope Brett Wallace "Flat-out wins the first base job," over Carlos Lee, but realize that it could be possible to have Lee there most of the season.
Wallace is young, 25, and has a lot of potential with the Astros. He hit 15 home runs last season, and had a batting average of .260.
While also rebuilding, like many teams are this season, I don't see Houston making a move on Pujols, and sticking to finding someone to develop from within.
Let's face it, the Royals don't have any talent at first, and it looks like they're in for another painfully bad season in the AL Central with the Twins and Tigers. But Albert Pujols could really turn this team around. If the Royals could land Pujols, it would attract a lot of great players to sign there.
Unfortunately, the Royals have one of the smallest markets in the MLB, and I don't see them offering Pujols anything near what other top runners will. Unless the Royals are secretly keeping their money hidden, because you don't see them dishing out cash to big name players, or someone else buys the team, I really believe that the Kansas City Royals are one of the worst franchises in the MLB right now.
Mitch Moreland will be given every chance possible to be the everyday starter for the Texas Rangers, but you have to think that after a disappointing finish to last season, they could be looking for a big move.
The Rangers have no money. That is the biggest problem here. The deal breaker. But hypothetically, let's say that the Rangers accumulated a large sum of money. The Rangers are the type of team that would look Pujols look good, and they could use Pujols to make them the best team in the American League. Hypothetically.
Gaby Sanchez is a great defensive first baseman for the Marlins, but he isn't going to put the ball over the fence more than 30 times a year.
With the Marlins, they could really go either way with this situation. They have a lot of young talent, and cheap talent, but do they want to try and develop from within or make a big move with someone like Pujols?
I'm guessing to keep it safe and say that they will probably try to acquire a first baseman from somewhere, but it won't be Albert Pujols.
Derrek Lee has started to disappear in the majors, and has had more than a few less than spectacular seasons lately. But maybe we can see him rekindle his presence in Baltimore.
The Orioles are another team that will be withered by the small market curse. The Orioles have been bad for years, and with no one coming to their games, it's going to be hard to find the money for Pujols. The best bet is to stick with Lee and hope he will come to.
Last week, Detroit would have been either 28, 29 or 30, but Miguel Cabrera has recently been issued a DUI, and may face some penalties from either the MLB or the Detroit Tigers organization.
No talks about trading the slugger have been heard yet, but the fact that this kind of thing has happened has the Tigers angry and concerned about the direction of the troubled first baseman.
Detroit is not a prime location for Pujols to play next season, but if the Tigers moved Cabrera, got some great prospects and maybe some draft picks (I'm thinking a team like the Nationals, Mariners or Diamondbacks), and then signed Pujols, that could be an amazing team waiting to be awoken in Motor City.
The Rockies are another great, young team with a lot of talent, and Todd Helton isn't getting any younger. Helton's stats weren't that great last year, and that could have Colorado starting to worry.
Colorado probably isn't too worried about their first baseman next year, because all in all, they're a playoff capable team. The Rockies are going to focus more on the talent they already have rather than spending over $100 million on Albert Pujols. But it's not out of the question.
James Loney was signed to a one-year deal on Friday to avoid arbitration, which could set up the possibility of a trade. The Dodgers losing their first baseman opens up a lot of opportunities for them.
They could make a trade with Loney and some prospects to get a decent first baseman like Morneau or Fielder, or they could take the route that so many are expecting, and try and sign Albert Pujols as a free agent.
I'm not buying the hype. Yes, the Dodgers are a fantastic team and they have the money and market to make this deal. But Albert doesn't want to play for this team. He isn't the prototypical superstar that only wants to go play for New York, LA or Miami (LeBron). Expect an offer from the Dodgers next December, but Pujols won't be accepting.
This doesn't really make sense, and I'll admit that now. But rumors have been flying the last few days referring to the Yankees possibly wanting some kind of deal this season to trade Mark Teixeira and other players to the Cardinals for Albert Pujols.
The Yankees are confident enough to try and sign Pujols after the season, and risk losing Teixeira and Pujols after 2011. This would be an automatically accepted deal for the Cardinals if this were to be actually proposed, which it won't.
This move is too risky to actually believe, but the fact that the Yankees have more money to waste than any other team in the MLB makes this possible. Maybe Pujols would like playing DH...
The Los Angeles Angels have more of a chance at Albert than the Dodgers in 2012. Kendry Morales is on the last year of his contract, and their team is one of the older teams in the league.
Morales hit 25 home runs last year and had a .290 batting average, so if they resigned Morales, they would make out just fine.
But the Angels are a team that plays better with a star in their lineup, and they haven't had one for a few years now. Signing Pujols would be a great move for the Angles that would definitely make them a World Series caliber team in 2012.
The Pittsburgh Pirates are the worst team in the MLB, and the signing of Lyle Overbay is not going to help them at all. If the Pirates want any shot of making the playoffs in the next five seasons, they have to sign Albert Pujols, as is the case with all of the upcoming teams.
The Pirates have one of the worst markets in the MLB, which is why they are seated at number seven. You can be 100 percent sure that the Pirates will seriously consider making an offer to Albert Pujols if they can come up with the money. If the Pirates can sign Pujols, it might turn that franchise around. But I don't think Albert Pujols wants to go to a rebuilding team to finish his career.
Brad Hawpe was taken in by the San Diego Padres for this season in hopes of filling in incredible void left by the departure of Adrian Gonzalez. PETCO Park is the worst stadium for left handed hitters, and Hawpe's strong suit is definitely not hitting.
The Padres would be a great place for Pujols because they're playoff caliber, have a great fan base and have beautiful weather (and as much as it sucks, we all know that's a factor). If the Padres were willing to shell out millions for Pujols, the slugger would definitely consider this team, as they need a first baseman badly.
Even if San Francisco hasn't said anything about trying to sign Albert Pujols, you have to agree this is a perfect situation for both parties.
Aubrey Huff is getting old, and if the Giants could find a younger player to take his spot, they would. And for Pujols, why wouldn't you want to go somewhere you know that can win a championship? If Pujols were to go to a team that has a chance at a World Series, it would be San Francisco. He would be popular, he could succeed, he would have great teammates and he could win another World Series.
The Diamondbacks flat out need help. It's not going to come from anywhere inside of the organization either. The Diamondbacks are going to have to make a big move to land a superstar soon if they want to regain their status in the league.
Albert Pujols is going to be a prime opportunity for them to spend some of their money and improve their team. If Pujols is willing to wait one or two years for the team to sign some other big name players, I could see Pujols considering an offer from Arizona that could change this team completely.
It's not going to come cheap for the Diamondbacks though. Let's say the Yankees offered him $140 million, for the Diamondbacks to even be considered, I think they'd have to offer him about $150-$155 million, and I don't know if any team is willing to pay that much.
The Seattle Mariners have a great young prospect in Justin Smoak, but if they want to make a playoff run soon, they're going to have to make a serious effort to sign Albert Pujols.
If the Mariners signed Albert Pujols, they could move their prospect Smoak to DH and let Pujols take the reigns of the team. That's really all there is to it. Seattle needs a star, and they haven't had one to stand next to Ichiro for over a decade.
If Pujols signed with the Mariners, and a few other high caliber players signed as will, you could expect Ichiro, Smoak, Pujols and other new names to do a lot of damage in the AL West. The Mariners are a breeding ground or talent, and it's waiting to hatch.
The Cubs have made a few big moves this off-season acquiring Carlos Pena and Matt Garza, but let's face it, the Cubs haven't won a World Series in over 100 years. The city of Chicago and especially Cubs' fans are some of the best fans in the MLB, and they want a team that wins, year in, and year out.
Pena and Garza were only the first step, this is the perfect team for Albert Pujols to go to. They'll make a statement this season in the NL Central, and if Pujols joined them next season, they would be a great team.
Being inside of the Cardinals division could pose a problem for the Cubs though, as Pujols may decide that he respects St. Louis too much to play in the NL Central. But most likely that will not effect his decision making, and ultimately, Chicago would be an ideal fit for Albert Pujols in 2012.
Bottom line is, Albert Pujols loves St. Louis! He has spent his whole career there, won them so many games and he said himself he wants to be a Cardinal forever.
Pujols has had nothing but love from this team, and the fact that he didn't accept this offer is because he wants a little more money. There's only about a 15 percent chance max that he signs with another team. The Cardinals have built this team around him, and I truly believe him when he says he will spend his career there.
Teams won't be willing to offer Pujols that kind of money unless they are awful because established teams do not need to take risks on players like Albert. Who says he is going to keep playing this way for another 10 years?
Albert Pujols will be in a Cardinals jersey in 2012, and he will continue to flourish in the MLB until he retires as a Cardinal, but St. Louis has to make an effort to put better players around him. If they can do that, signing Pujols will be easy.