MLB Free Agents 2012: Rangers Must Steal Albert Pujols from Cardinals as Payback

Justin WeltonAnalyst IIOctober 29, 2011

ST LOUIS, MO - OCTOBER 28:  Albert Pujols #5 of the St. Louis Cardinals celebrates in the locker room after defeating the Texas Rangers 6-2 to win Game Seven of the MLB World Series at Busch Stadium on October 28, 2011 in St Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

After losing to the St. Louis Cardinals in the seventh game of the 2011 World Series, the Texas Rangers have now lost back-to-back title appearances.

“If you can’t beat 'em, join 'em.” We have heard this expression many times in sports history, but what about, "If you can’t beat 'em, steal 'em?"

That’s what the Texas Rangers have to do with Albert Pujols of the St. Louis Cardinals if they want to get over the hump in 2012.

Imagine the offensive firepower the Rangers would have opening the 2012 campaign.

It would be brutal for opposing pitchers. Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, Adrian Beltre, Michael Young, Ian Kinsler, Mike Napoli, Elvis Andrus and Albert Pujols right in the middle of the order. Texas would lead just about every offensive category imaginable.

Bringing in a guy like Pujols—now with two rings—only allows others to play at a higher level. Take the World Series MVP David Freese, for example. He was decent in 2011 but really turned it on in the postseason. Allen Craig, Yadier Molina and others followed suit.

It all starts with Pujols. If he isn’t in the middle of the lineup, St. Louis doesn’t have that one guy pitchers can’t afford to pitch to with runners on base—or in any situation—because he will make you pay.

Texas has a bunch of great hitters littered throughout their lineup, but not one of them compares to Pujols. Despite people saying Pujols declined in 2011, he still hit .299 with 37 home runs and 99 RBI—not too shabby.

He has hit over 30 home runs and 99 RBI in every year of his career. He will always produce at a high level, no matter how old he gets.

Bringing in Pujols depends on a few things: Will Texas give Pujols what he wants—10 years, $300 million—and if they will, is St. Louis willing to match.

Texas’ payroll is increasing by the year. They sit at about $92 million—$7 million behind St. Louis. I’m not sure that any team would be willing to give Pujols, who is 31 years old, a deal that would consist of him playing into his early 40s, but maybe Texas would be willing enough after losing back-to-back World Series.

Rangers’ owner Nolan Ryan wants a winner. Sometimes going out and grabbing the best available offensive option in free agency is the way to go.

You can win World Series championships in different ways. Teams don’t need to have an unbelievable pitching staff like the San Francisco Giants in 2010. Teams can win World Series playing exactly like the Cardinals just did—relatively no starting pitching, solid bullpen work and great coaching.

Even though Texas could add another top-of-the-line starter to solidify their pitching woes, they were just one catch or one strike away from winning a World Series.

Would they have been in that situation if Pujols was on their side?