Albert Pujols Rumors: Rating the Odds for Each MLB Team Landing Him for 2012
Albert Pujols Rumors: Rating the Odds for Each MLB Team Landing Him for 2012
Albert Pujols is without question the greatest hitter of this generation. So, by simple logic, Pujols will be due for the highest payday of any MLB player ever when he becomes a free agent this offseason...right?
Alex Rodriguez' contract signed in 1994, worth $264,416,252, is the most lucrative ever signed by any player. Pujols will look to improve on that number and possibly become the first $300 million man in the history of baseball.
There are going to be a lot of interested parties this offseason, to say the least. Let the free-agent bonanza begin.
The Teams with Established First Basemen: 30-25
These are the teams who aren't in need of Pujols' bat. They already have elite first basemen and they don't have a readily available roster spot for Pujols to fill.
30. Cincinnati Reds
Joey Votto, the 2010 National League MVP, might be the best hitter in the NL not named Albert Pujols.
Simly put, the Reds don't have plans of moving the 27-year-old Votto anytime soon.
The Reds signed Votto to a three-year extension this offseason worth $44.5 million, and he figures to be the fixture of the Cincinnati offense for at least three more seasons.
The Reds have never really been north of a $75 million payroll since Bob Castellini purchased the team in 2006. With a premier first baseman like Votto and a finite checkbook, Pujols to the Reds has almost no chance of happening.
29. Philadelphia Phillies
Ryan Howard has played his entire career as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies, and that isn't going to change anytime soon.
The 31-year-old has been one of the premier sluggers in the game for quite some time. Despite his talent, the $138 million and six years left on his contract, coupled with his age, make him almost unmovable.
With no spot available, the Phillies are unlikely to pursue Pujols at all.
28. Boston Red Sox
The Boston Red Sox got their man in Adrian Gonzalez this past offseason. When the Sox extended him this past April for seven years and $154 million, it was the second-largest contract in team history (behind only Manny Ramirez).
While Boston theoretically has the money to sign Pujols, their already enormous payroll would be thrown into the stratosphere. Not to mention at least one Gold Glove first baseman (Gonzalez or Pujols, take your pick) would have to DH full-time, which just isn't going to happen.
27. New York Yankees
For the last three seasons, Mark Teixeira has been a staple of the New York Yankee offense. His contract runs through 2016, and he's due $112.5 million from 2012 onwards.
Like the Red Sox, the Yankees have the financial prowess to sign Pujols, but they have nowhere to put him. Teixeira is a Gold Glove first baseman, whose value would be significantly less as a designated hitter. The Yankees might spend this offseason, but it won't be on Pujols.
26. Detroit Tigers
Miguel Cabrera is no defensive wizard, but he is one of the best offensive players in the game. At age 28, a full-time switch to designated hitter seems unlikely even with his defensive challenges.
Miggy is signed through 2015 and is owed another $86 million on his current deal.
25. Chicago White Sox
Whether the White Sox like it or not, they've got another $25.5 million and two years committed to 35-year-old first baseman Paul Konerko.
The Chi Sox also signed Adam Dunn to a four-year deal worth $56 million, so there's no DH spot available either.
The White Sox have dollars and years committed to two fairly productive, albeit old, players. There's nowhere to put Pujols on the White Sox.
The Teams with Other Plans: 24-18
These are the teams who are comfortable with their first base situation, even if they lack an established player.
24. Kansas City Royals
If there's any organization with an abundance of blue-chip, corner infield talent, it's the Kansas City Royals.
Twenty-five-year-old Billy Butler, who recently signed an extension through 2015, was holding down the fort at first until Eric Hosmer exploded onto the scene.
In 26 minor league games this year, Hosmer absolutely destroyed Triple-A pitching. In 118 plate appearances, Homser batted a ridiculous .439/.525/.582 before getting the call-up to the big leagues.
The word is still out on Hosmer on the big league level, but he's impressed so far. In just 35 plate appearances, Hosmer has an .860 OPS and two home runs.
The Royals have one of the strongest minor league systems in the game and have ample options at first base. They have built such a sturdy farm system that they don't need to add a major free agent like Pujols to contend over the next few years.
23. Seattle Mariners
The M's are hoping that they've found a long-term first baseman and an offensive cornerstone in Justin Smoak.
Smoak was the foundation of the deal that sent Cliff Lee to Texas last season.
After struggling to find his stroke in the big leagues in 2010, Smoak has batted .286/.400/.527 with six HR and 24 RBI through 33 games this season.
The Mariners control Smoak through the 2015 season, and Pujols is out of their price range regardless.
22. New York Mets
The New York Mets have Ike Davis, a former first-round pick in the 2008 draft, currently manning the helm at first base.
Davis, just 24, has done a decent job so far. In 36 games, he's belted seven home runs and driven in 25 RBI, batting .302/.383/.543 in the process.
Not to mention that the Mets are in dire straits financially, and in the midst of a first-year regime change with new GM Sandy Alderson.
The Mets would be wise to take care of their own major players, like Jose Reyes and David Wright, instead of chasing a World Series pipe dream through Pujols.
21. Houston Astros
Stealing Pujols from the division rival Cardinals would be satisfying to the Houston Astros, but it's not a realistic goal.
The Astros acquired Brett Wallace at last year's deadline for fleet-footed outfield prospect Anthony Gose in the hopes that he would develop into the first baseman of the future.
In 39 games, Wallace is batting .333/.410/.468 with 13 extra base hits and a much improved walk rate. While his .400 BABIP likely means his average won't sustain, Wallace, just 24, has shown some encouraging signs.
The Astros aren't in the running for Pujols' services financially, and there isn't any reason why they should divert their limited funds on a single player, however good he is.
20. Atlanta Braves
The Braves seem committed to developing 21-year-old first base prospect Freddie Freeman.
Freeman had a productive year in Triple-A last year, batting .319/.378/.521 with 18 HR, 35 2B and 87 RBI in 519 plate appearances.
Freeman won the starting job outright in training camp and the Braves have remained adamant about playing him despite some early-season struggles.
At age 21, the Braves are comfortable playing Freeman full-time. There is obviously something that they like about this kid, and he figures to be the future at first base for the Braves.
19. San Franciso Giants
Brandon Belt was supposed to start at first for the Giants this year, but a .192 average through 17 games led to his demotion to Triple-A.
Well, Belt may be back very soon.
In 22 games, Belt is hitting a sizzling .388 with a ridiculous 1.100 OPS to boot.
The Giants, at least at this point, seem committed to developing Belt long-term. That could change as the season progresses, but at this point it doesn't look like Pujols will be making a move to the Bay Area anytime soon.
18. San Diego Padres
The Padres traded Adrian Gonzalez—who turned around and signed a seven-year, $154 million contract extension with his new team, the Boston Red Sox—because they knew they wouldn't be able to re-sign him once he hit free agency.
So, why would it make any sense for the Padres to pursue Pujols, who would likely be even more expensive?
Anthony Rizzo, one of the prospects dealt to San Diego in exchange for Gonzalez, is currently tearing it up in Triple-A.
Through 35 games, the 21-year-old Rizzo is hitting .372/.443/.686 with 10 HR and 45 RBI. Obviously, GM Jed Hoyer knew exactly what he was getting by trading for Rizzo, who can't wait until he reaches the big leagues.
If Rizzo keeps hitting and the Padres keep struggling offensively, Rizzo could be up much sooner than expected. At the very least, he remains a hopeful first baseman of the future for the Padres.
The Teams Who Probably Won't Open Their Wallets: 17-10
It's going to take a lot of dough to sign Albert Pujols. Dough that most teams don't have or aren't willing to spend.
There are a number of teams in baseball who would stand to benefit significantly from the addition of Pujols, but who lack the necessary financial background to make a substantial play.
17. Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pittsburgh Pirates look to be heading towards yet another losing season. Their current payroll is the third lowest in baseball.
Pujols won't fix the Pirates' problems, and he won't make them a championship contender. They don't spend money, and even if they did there would be better ways to spend it than on one single player.
Signing Pujols would be completely out of character for the Pirates.
16. Tampa Bay Rays
The Tampa Bay Rays have built a winning franchise despite being notoriously cheap.
They refused to sign major free agents Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena and Rafael Soriano this offseason. Many pegged them as the team negatively impacted the most by free agency, but they're currently leading the AL East with a 24-17 record, the second best in the American League.
The Rays are so good at being cheap that esteemed baseball writer/author Jonah Keri wrote a book detailing how they were able to build a winning franchise despite an extremely low payroll.
Pujols isn't coming to Tampa Bay.
15. Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers don't have a long-term plan in place at first base, but given their current financial situation it would be very unlikely that they pursue Pujols seriously.
The vicious divorce between Dodgers owners Frank and Jamie McCourt has spiraled into a complete disaster. Reports indicate that the Dodgers might even have trouble paying their players at the end of the month.
It just doesn't seem plausible that the Dodgers could sign Pujols given all that's gone on.
14. Arizona Diamondbacks
The Arizona Diamondbacks have mired in mediocrity for the last couple of seasons. The addition of Pujols still wouldn't be enough to make the D-Backs legit contenders.
Not to mention that the Diamondbacks haven't been in the top half of baseball salaries since 2004, and they've routinely cut their payroll since Jerry Colangelo sold his stake in the team.
13. Cleveland Indians
The Cleveland Indians have been baseball's biggest surprise this year. They're currently leading the American League Central with a 25-13 (.658) record, the best mark in baseball.
However, it would be crazy to think that a cost-conscious team like the Indians would make a play for Pujols.
12. Baltimore Orioles
The O's brought on a number of short-term rentals this year, like Derrek Lee, Mark Reynolds, Vlad Guerrero and J.J. Hardy.
However, the O's aren't looking to make a huge splash on the free-agent market—at least not yet.
These veteran additions have given them at the very worst a number of trade options at the deadline and at the very best a collective group of inexpensive, yet productive, players in case the O's severely overachieve and make the playoffs.
The Orioles will continue to remake their franchise in the image and likeness of Buck Showalter. They're not yet at the point in their development where they should be looking to add major free agents like Pujols.
11. Oakland Athletics
The Oakland Athletics have the 21st-lowest payroll in baseball this season. While they could stand to gain a lot with the addition of a bat like Pujols, it's more likely that the A's continue to build around their young pitching staff, filling in the offense with inexpensive players.
10. Florida Marlins
The Florida Marlins continually draw one of the worst attendance rates in baseball, and they're generally near the bottom when it comes to team salary.
The Marlins just don't like to pay their players very much. They'll continue to operate with their core group of players and won't add a bat like Pujols.
The Dark Horse Teams: 9-5
The next five clubs are dark horses in the battle to sign Pujols.
9. Minnesota Twins
The Twins' ability to sign Pujols largely hinges on the production/health of Justin Morneau. At this point, it doesn't look like Morneau is anywhere close to being a valuable trade asset.
Morneau would likely have to be moved for the Twins to consider Pujols. However, it's possible that Morneau could make a full-time transition to DH once Jason Kubel departs via free agency.
It doesn't currently look like the Twins would be a great fit for Pujols, but they remain an intriguing option. Morneau's inconsistent play coupled with the fact that the Twins are one of the few teams who aren't priced out by Pujols at least leaves the door open for future negotiation.
8. Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays showed that they were no strangers to spending when they extended Jose Bautista this past offseason. While his extension was only for $64 million, they still turned a few heads.
It sounds improbable but there are a few reasons why this could make sense. For starters, the Jays lack any clear long-term plan at first base. Pujols' power bat would thrive in the Rogers Centre and the American League East.
It would have the potential to vault the talent-heavy Jays to the top of the AL East. The Blue Jays have one of the stronger farm systems in the game and an abundance of young talent.
Pujols would be the veteran presence and the solid fixture in the middle of the lineup that could turn the Jays into an offensive powerhouse. For a team looking to make their move towards the top of baseball's elite, there is no better option that Pujols.
Signing Pujols, however, would be a significant change in the management of the Jays. They currently sport the 23rd-ranked payroll in baseball, although they could afford to take on a contract like Pujols' without becoming too expensive.
7. Colorado Rockies
While Todd Helton is under contract for the 2012 and 2013 seasons, he's only owed $9.9 million over that span, making him easy to move. He hasn't been a premier power hitter for a long time, and the Rockies might welcome a change.
Imagine: Pujols, Tulowitzki and CarGo, all hitting in the middle of the lineup in the thin Colorado air. It wouldn't be fair.
6. Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers remain outside shots at acquiring Pujols, but they'll certainly have a void at first if Prince Fielder leaves via free agency as expected.
The Brewers offered Fielder an $100 million extension, which he turned down, and they also extended OF Ryan Braun for five years, $105 million. It's not as if the Brewers are strangers to large contracts.
5. Texas Rangers
First base remains one of the biggest areas of weakness for the Texas Rangers. Albert Pujols would be the cornerstone of a dynamic offense in Texas, where his power would be on display.
Adding Pujols would also rectify the loss of Cliff Lee to the Philadelphia Phillies.
He's a perfect fit for Texas, it just comes down to whether or not the Rangers would be willing to put down the financial package necessary to draw him to Arlington.
4. Chicago Cubs
One single hug has gotten the baseball world in quite a kerfuffle.
Ok, so while the hug might not be the most plausible reason for why Pujols could end up in Chicago...Pujols could still end up in Chicago.
Things we know: The Cubs love to spend. Usually, the players the Cubs spend on end up disappointing, so Pujols may want to avoid the Cubs purely in an attempt to avoid jinxing himself.
Carlos Pena is on a one-year lease by the Cubs. They'll have the room at first base next year.
Stealing Pujols from St. Louis would be the ultimate move in shifting the power of the NL Central.
3. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
The Angels recently got the news that first baseman Kendrys Morales would miss the remainder of the season due to injury.
By the start of the 2012 season, Morales will have played in just 51 games over the last two years, the result of suffering a major leg break.
Morales' future at this point is uncertain, and the Angels could use an injection of pop into their lineup. They could also stand to have a productive offseason, after they failed to land any of the major free agents they were pursuing.
The Angels spend with the best of them, and they now have a pressing need at first base. Pujols could fit.
2. Washington Nationals
Think it's crazy? Well, it's not.
The Nats proved this offseason that they were willing to spend when they signed Jayson Werth to a $126 million contract.
It's not as if the Nats are short of cash; owner Ted Lerner is a multi-billionaire.
After years of mediocrity, the Nats are trying to force their way into the baseball hierarchy. Signing Pujols would affirm the plausibility of that goal, especially as both Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper could be on the scene in 2012.
1. St. Louis Cardinals
Rest easy, Cardinals fans. St. Louis is still the overwhelming favorite to sign Pujols.
Pujols isn't a vindictive guy. While he's not going to take a huge paycut, he's not just looking for the bottom dollar. He intends to go out and earn his paycheck each and every night.
St. Louis has treated Pujols well, and it dosen't seem as if he wants to leave. All the Cardinals have to do is give him a reasonable contract offer, and that's that.