It's becoming increasingly clear that the Cardinals are going to have to make Pujols a $30 million a year man -- or face losing him at the end of the upcoming season.
According to ESPN, Pujols has told the Redbirds that he absolutely would reject any trade the club could cobble together as a fallback position for not being able to sign him.
It's unbelievable how badly the Cardinals have handled this situation, putting off getting serious about an extension until the eleventh hour. It was bad when the Birds were caught flat footed by Ryan Howard's $25 million a year contract extension. But it was unforgivable that they allowed Albert to reach 10 and five status before they inked him to a new deal. And now they're at Pujols' mercy. Give him what he wants, no questions asked, or he hits the open market and is almost surely gone.
At this point, the best case scenario is that Pujols would agree to sign an eight-year contract for $30 million a season instead of insisting on a 10-year deal. And Pujols has told the Redbirds he won't negotiate further after he gets to spring training in 20 days.
ESPN's Buster Olney said the next week and a half is critical if the Cardinals hope to avert disaster. He writes:
What happens after that remains to be seen, but the choices facing the Cardinals are expensive in different ways. Either St. Louis will negotiate a deal along the lines that Pujols has asked for -- probably something in the neighborhood of the 10-year, $275 million deal that Alex Rodriguez signed with the Yankees in the fall of 2007 -- or the Cardinals will pay for the backlash after Pujols walks away.
If Pujols departs as a free agent, the Cardinals would get two draft picks in return. But it's doubtful they could ever make up for the lost production.
In every season he has played, Pujols's OPS has ranged from .955 to 1.115. He has never failed to hit fewer than 32 homers, never failed to drive in less than 103 runs, and in nine of his 10 seasons, his on-base percentage has never been under .403.