Albert Pujols injury may cost the Cardinals this year; will it cost him in free agency?
By all accounts, Albert Pujols has been baseball's ironman for the better part of a decade. While he may not evoke images of Cal Ripken Jr. playing in 2,632 consecutive games, he has only been on the disabled list twice in over 10 seasons.
His most recent injury, a hairline fracture extending from his forearm to his wrist, is far and away the most serious. Questions about his bat speed and bat control will have to be answered.
Even with the gaudy career statistics of a .329 average, 425 home runs and 1275 runs batted in, it may prove costly for all parties involved.
Here are four ways Albert Pujols' injury will affect his free agency.
I don't blame Tony LaRussa for saying, "I'm going to find a place to cry" after learning the diagnosis of Pujols' injury. He obviously means so much to LaRussa, the St. Louis Cardinals and all of baseball that his loss for up to two months is devastating.
To date, the Cardinals are 2-5 without him. If it is more of the same in the next six weeks, the Cardinals will painfully find out just how badly they need to re-sign Pujols.
As a result, I would not blame the Cardinals at all for trying to re-establish contract talks with Pujols in season. Pujols said when the season started he would not want to discuss his contract anymore, but now is at least a good time to find out what each side is thinking.
It was rumored in the offseason that the Cardinals offered 10 years and more than $200 million dollars. How much more is anyone's guess. Many sources say Pujols was seeking 10 years and $300 million. That seems like a rather large gap to keep Pujols in St. Louis.
Certainly the Cardinals could revisit contract talks with Pujols in hopes of a discount, but Pujols still has time left this season to prove his health. In addition, the Players Association will want Pujols, perhaps the face of baseball, to have a record-breaking contract. If he does prove healthy, he may do just that.
It is clear the Cardinals must start talking and do whatever it takes to keep Albert Pujols in St. Louis.
The rumored price tag for Pujols of 10 years and $300 million dollars is a difficult pill for anyone to swallow. It may seem feasible for the first few years, especially with increased ticket sales, merchandise and all the milestones Pujols is likely to hit along the way.
Imagine 10 years from now, a 41-year-old Albert Pujols taking up a third of your team's payroll. That exact scenario is why many question how Pujols could garner such a large contract. With his recent injury questions as well, it is hard to believe he will receive that much.
At the same token, Pujols may age gracefully and be able to continue playing first base. He has rarely been injured, is still athletic and is a workout warrior.
The question remains for general managers: Will Pujols defy Father Time in the mold of Hank Aaron, or have his career hampered by injuries like Ken Griffey Jr.?
Is the reward worth the risk?
Cards GM John Mozeliak
Now that teams realize Albert Pujols is human, it is hard to envision him receiving a contract length of 10 years. Perhaps he could still manage that length if he went to an American League team where he could become a designated hitter years down the road.
If Alex Rodriguez can sign a 10-year deal at age 32, why not Pujols at 31?
I really think the best thing for baseball (and one of its storied franchises in the Cardinals) is for Pujols to stay in St. Louis. Cardinal fans certainly support their team as much as any other franchise, despite being a small to mid-size market.
If Pujols does indeed stay in St. Louis, can they really commit to a contract of 10 years? I guess they could make it happen.
The Cardinals could entertain the idea of trading Pujols when he is in the twilight of his career or unable to play first base. I can imagine the backlash if that were ever to happen.
The other option would be to defer money to Pujols until long after he is out of baseball a la Bobby Bonilla and the New York Mets. That could be the likely scenario, but could also cripple the proud Cardinals in the future depending on the parameters.
It certainly would be more prudent to sign Pujols to a six or even seven-year deal, but what does Albert really want?
If Albert Pujols is available, teams will listen, but just how many teams will be interested if the contract demands remain similar?
Some teams will have budget restraints and still others are in such a state of financial hardship that they are filing for bankruptcy. Now keep in mind the injury questions. Lastly, consider Pujols has competition in Prince Fielder, four years his junior and in the midst of an MVP-type season.
The bottom line is Pujols will still be a wanted man, just not as much as everyone would think.
If Pujols can return to form, showing his usual power and plate discipline, this all becomes a relatively moot point. However, this injury is serious enough to take away some of his power, at the very least, in the short term.
If that is the case, it may be just enough for teams to avoid a record-breaking contract.
Adding Pujols to any lineup would make them scary, but overpaying for an aging and injured slugger would be even scarier.