The Cardinals and representatives of superstar Albert Pujols have agreed not to negotiate the slugger's contract extension in public. So it looks like we're going to be left in the dark until there is an announcement either way.
My sense is that, if it's going to be good news, we're going to hear something sooner rather than later. If it lingers on, then it's time to start to worry.
A frustrated Pujols said last year that he thought a deal could be hammered out in a couple of days if the Redbirds were serious. And he's probably right. As much as we all like to speculate what he'll ask for and what the Cardinals will offer, the truth is that Pujols is one of the best players in the game and he'll ask for -- and he deserves -- to be paid amongst the best players in the game.
That's probably going to lie somewhere between the $25 million per season contract Ryan Howard got from the Phillies and the $30 million or so per year Alex Rodriguez will get from the Yankees if he reaches incentive clauses for climbing the all time homer chart.
Pujols might give the Cardinals a break -- but it is unlikely that he is going to take less than what Howard got. And he could make a case for more than A-Rod got in the knowledge that the only way the Birds could afford to keep him is to gut the rest of the roster. When you get down to it, I don't think he wants to see that happen.
Team Chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. has said that the Cardinals can't match A-Rod's deal. And then he made an obvious point -- that the Yankees probably wish they hadn't passed out that contract in the first place.
If the Cardinals were smart, they'd offer Pujols a stake in the team and less cash. As former MLB commissioner Fay Vincent pointed out in a recent Wall Stree Journal column, there is nothing in the rule books to prevent clubs from doing exactly that. It's good for the players, Vincent said, because it gives them something that will produce revenue long after they retire and the tax consequences have less impact. It's good for the teams because they can save some money to build a better supporting cast to keep the fans coming.
I wonder if Albert would re-up for eight seasons at his current rate of $16 million a year with a five percent ownership stake in the ballclub. According to Forbes magazine, the Cardinals are worth about $488 million. That works out to a present day value of $3 million per year of the contract. Plus, he'd get a stake in the club's profits -- including a larger share of his own merchandise sales. With tax implications and the value of those assets in mind, Pujols would be making the equivalent of somewhere in the mid $20 million range per year to play baseball. And don't forget that the value of the Cardinals has TRIPLED since DeWitt and company bought the team just 15 years ago.
Sounds like a pretty good deal to me.