I have spent the past few months convincing people that Felix Hernandez trade rumors are pure nonsense, and it appears that the message has sunk in. After all, it has been awhile since I saw anyone suggest he could be dealt.
Instead, fans have moved on to a new trade target that is equally implausible: Albert Pujols.
Unlike Felix, there are a few reasons to think that Pujols could be on the trading block. He is in the final year of his contract; he will be 32 at the beginning of next season and he is reportedly seeking a contract that could be as large as 10 years and $300 million.
On the other hand, there are many other reasons why the Cardinals wouldn’t bother consider a trade involving the best player in baseball.
The Cardinals are currently leading their division.
At 37-26, the Cardinals are a half-game behind the Phillies for the best record in the National League. They also have a 1.5 game lead over the Brewers in their division, meaning that the odds of the franchise making the playoffs are as favorable as any team in baseball.
Trading the best player in baseball—if not franchise history—is highly unlikely to help the team contend this year. So why would the team give up on the season when they are in first place?
If you can think of any precedent involving a team trading a franchise player at midseason while they are in first place, I will be both impressed and surprised.
Pujols won’t accept a trade.
As a 10-and-5 player, Pujols as veto power over any trade proposal that St. Louis makes. Since he has already said that he would exercise this right if the Cardinals try to trade him during the season, there’s not a lot of reason to ask about him in a deal.
The Cardinals can afford to re-sign him.
This is the biggest misconception of the entire situation. To begin, the Cardinals would not be adding $30 million to their yearly payroll by re-signing Pujols, as they are already paying him around $14.5 million per year.
According to Forbes, the Cardinals have an operating income (i.e. revenue to spend) of $19.8 million, meaning that extending Pujols with a $30 million per year deal would still leave the team with $5.3 million to play with.
Additionally, the Cardinals have Kyle Lohse’s $12.2 million deal coming off the books after the 2012 season. So really, the Cardinals would only take a one-year hit in profits by signing Pujols to a contract—and that’s assuming the Cardinals’ revenues remain identical to 2010 levels even though they went up by $12 million from 2009.
So can the Cardinals afford to add $15.5 million to their payroll in 2012? I say most definitely.
Draft picks and prospects are the same thing.
Another major misconception about letting players leave to free agency is that the draft picks received from losing free agents are worthless. In truth, the opposite is true. Draft picks are a highly valued commodity.
Where do you think most prospects come from? If the prospect is from the United States, Canada or Puerto Rico, chances are very good that he was drafted at some point.
And it’s not like the Cardinals would get a pair of late-round picks. On the contrary, Pujols’ status as a Type-A free agent means that they would be guaranteed a pick in the sandwich round (between the first and second rounds), plus a pick that is either in the bottom half of the first round or the top half of the second round, depending on where the team that signed Pujols was drafting.
Is this as good as a fistful of prospects? Maybe yes, maybe no. There is the possibility of getting more than two players in a trade, and prospects do have the advantage of being closer to the majors.
However, that still does not guarantee that they will one day be in the Show. There’s also no guarantee about prospect performance when they switch organizations, whereas draft picks at least would be in the Cardinal organization from the beginning of their pro careers.
But ask yourselves, what team is going to give up a fist full of prospects to get a two-month rental on a player, even one as good as Pujols? Why would they mortgage their future like that? And would these prospects really be better for the Cardinals than making one final run at the World Series with Pujols, even if he is set on leaving after the season?
I have no idea whether or not Albert Pujols will be wearing a St. Louis Cardinals uniform next season. But I am very confident that he will be wearing one when October comes around.