Albert Pujols is arguably the best baseball player this generation has seen. He is viewed as a model for what a baseball player should be amid the cloud of performance-enhancers that dominated baseball from the late '90s to early 2000s. His year-to-year performances speak for themselves, and he has become an icon not only in the city of St. Louis, but for all baseball fans around the world.
Capturing his performance and status in the community, Pujols’ impending free agency is something that can possibly cripple the St. Louis Cardinals franchise for years. Unless his demands come down, there is little chance the Cardinals will be willing to give him what he is seeking. However, if the Cardinals relent and give him the $30 million per year he seeks, it may cripple them financially. This is baseball's ultimate catch-22.
When one evaluates the landscape for Pujols' services, they will find a diminished field of major players. Teams such as the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies, that would normally be in the conversation, already have first base locked up for the foreseeable future. That leaves only a handful of teams that would be in a position to make a run at signing him. The most logical team would be the Chicago Cubs, who may be willing to meet the asking price. If that occurs, the impact in St. Louis would be even greater than just losing Pujols.
The most significant impact has to deal with how it will affect Major League Baseball.
Much has been made about the rising salaries for players in MLB. The contract that Alex Rodriguez signed is now viewed by many as the worst contract ever given. To judge Pujols’ worth by that standard, at face value, would be to say he is the better player and deserves to solidify his status as such.
If only it were that simple.
The ramifications of such a deal would immediately increase the average salary base of the players. In the last 5 years, salaries have increased 25.27% from $2,632,655 in 2005 to $3,297,828 in 2010*. A major reason for that increase is the $275 million given to Alex Rodriguez in 2007 that contributed to an increase of 7.1% from 2007 to 2008*.
Already this year, we have seen Jayson Werth, Cliff Lee, Carl Crawford and Troy Tulowitski get deals in excess of $100 million with a potential extension worth that much in the works for Adrian Gonzalez. The effect on the average salary this year will be enormous. Add in a $300 million contract for Pujols, and the players’ salaries are bordering on uncontrollable.
At the time of Rodriguez's contract, he was viewed by many as Pujols' equal in terms of performance. Now, Pujols has surpassed him, which begs the question, what happens when Pujols is not worth his contract and a player like Joey Votto surpasses him? Does he become the first $33 million dollar player?
Every major increase has a ripple down effect on the entire landscape of players. At this rate, the world may bear witness to the first $40 million dollar player within the next ten years.
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