Albert Pujols says he might not play out his LA contract

Posted by Scott Wuerz on April 7, 2013 

Former St. Louis Cardinals superstar Albert Pujols told the Los Angeles Times that he won't play out 10-year contract if he can't perform up to his standards.

"God has given me ability and talent," Pujols told the LA Times. "But the day I feel like I can't compete anymore on this level, I'm not going to embarrass myself. I'm going to walk off. Whether it's next year or two years from now, only God knows."

He went on to say that he would do so because he doesn't want to be a financial drag on the Halos, who apparently have more cash these days than they know what to do with.

That's an interesting sentiment since he wouldn't accept a deal even one year shorter than what Anaheim offered to remain in St. Louis where his legacy was sealed. Let's not forget he was INSULTED when St. Louis offered him a five year contract with a higher annual value, perhaps as much as $30 million a year, before finally turning down a nine-year deal said to be worth $210-$220 million.

Pujols not only trashed his relationship with Cardinals fans by accepting what seemed like a relatively slightly higher pay day (I consider $20-$30 million to be a minor amount when we're talking about the difference between $210 million and $240 million to a guy who had already banked $116 million as a player.) But he also signed a personal services contract as part of the Anaheim deal that forbids him from appearing as a representative of any team but Anaheim for 10 years after he retires. 

If that wasn't making a clean break from the people who adored him, I don't know what would be.

But, after all the pain he caused his loyal legions, it could very well turn out that Pujols will make LESS money in California than he would if he just stayed with the Redbirds and someday appeared on the field before big games in a red blazer to receive cheers from his fans from the day he retired until the day he dies.

Pujols signed a back-loaded, 10-year deal that pays him $29 million in the ninth season and $30 million in the 10th. So if he hangs it up at 40 and leaves those two years on the table, he'll make $181 million. I'm not much of a math wizard. But I'm pretty sure that's less than the $210 he had the potential to make here.

I'm guessing, since he had already carved out his payroll niche in St. Louis that Pujols wouldn't have signed such a back-loaded deal with the Cardinals. He was making $16 million here the last couple of years of his previous contract, so it wouldn't make sense for him to drop down to $12 million a year like he did with the Angels while that club waited for it's huge TV contract to kick in. It would have been more reasonable for the Cardinals to divide the deal equally into nine seasons of $23.33 million (probably deferring a small portion) than it would for the team to pay Pujols less when he's productive and more when is broken down.

If that happened and Pujols played for eight years under his new deal, he would have banked $186 million AND his legacy as the heir to Stan Musial would have been intact. The shorter the term he played, the larger the advantage would have been if he chose to continue to play for St. Louis under those circumstances.

Albert's hardball negotiating put the Redbirds in a spot where they feared it would bankrupt the team's ability to field a competitive team had he played beyond the point that he was productive. If he would have accepted less guaranteed years, he may very well have still been a fit here.

With the bumper crop of young talent the Cardinals have, they could make up for his big payday with guys like Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal and Pete Kozma holding down prime positions for the major league minimum. And, even hitting the .285 with 30 homers he managed last season, he would have been an offensive powerhouse and a ticket selling draw.

Imagine the Cardinals without Carlos Beltran, Pujols playing first base and Allen Craig in right field. 

I'm not sure what happens to the personal services deal if Pujols retires early. But if he sputters for a few years there and hangs it up, he's not going to be very valuable as a baby kisser and cap waver. Here he would have been the next closest thing to a god.

Cardinals fans, relieved by Pujols' terrible start in 2012, seem to have moved on. I get a lot less text messages and emails these days every time he strikes out. But that doesn't mean this deal doesn't still stink. He made an emotional decision to snub the Cardinals for not kissing his butt by offering him the moon and stars to the detriment of the team's ability to compete. And in the process he really only hurt the fans who loved him.

It wasn't all about the money -- until it really was. And now it turns out that the whole reason he walked out was likely nothing more than a mirage. But that's business, right?

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