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He is arguably the best hitter of the 21st century. His career line is .328/.420/.617 and he has never had fewer than 30 home runs or has a career batting average of 3.28. From 2001 (the start of his career) to 2011, he leads all players in WAR at 87.8. As for hardware, he has three MVPs, two Gold Gloves and one World Series ring.
Through seven NLDS, five NLCS and two World Series appearances, he has hit .339/.441/.603 with 15 home runs. He is Albert Pujols and, for the first time in his career, the "Prince" could hit free agency.
It seems crazy that St. Louis would let its prolific first baseman go, but that seems to be where things are headed. For two years now the Cardinals have failed to further extend the right-hander. With a franchise-high $109,048,000 payroll in 2011 and minimal money coming off the books for 2012, Cardinal's GM John Mozeliak does not have much financial wiggle room. The two parties have never seemed on the same page and they are running out of time for an extension.
Meanwhile, the inter-division rival Chicago Cubs look poised to make a push for the NL Central. Chicago's highest franchise payroll came in 2010 at $144,359,000; this season it was only $134,004,000. The Cubs could see up to $40-plus million come off the books this offseason.
What better way for new Cub's GM Theo Epstein to make a statement to the division than signing the best player in baseball?
Pujols would give Chicago a franchise player to build around. His bat and glove are exactly what the anemic Cubs lineup needs. Prince Albert is approaching 32 but has never shown any sign of slowing down, and his track record with injuries and surgeries is incredibly impressive.
If St. Louis lets No. 5 go, there is a good chance he is not leaving the division, always reminding the Cardinals of the one that got away.