A new column from SI.com's Jon Heyman predicts that the Cardinals will still ultimately re-sign superstar slugger Albert Pujols.
But if he does reach free agency, Heyman said some people in the know think the hated Cubs might be the team most willing to break the bank to land him.
Baseball higher-ups seem to believe that Albert Pujols will wind up re-signing with St. Louis. Very little has come out about those talks since SI.com reported a few weeks ago that the sides were as much as $100 million apart, or even more, with Pujols looking for an A-Rod type deal and the Cardinals believed to be offering at least a bit under $200 million, at least at the time. But baseball executives don't see a divorce happening. If it did, one competing exec opined that the Cubs may be "best positioned'' to make a run at Pujols. "They may want to make a splash,'' surmised the exec. Ah, yes, that would be quite a splash.
I guess that scenario would be the ultimate test of Albert's love of being a Cardinal and of potentially taking Stan Musial's mantle as the team's greatest legend. While there would be a tremendous backlash againt St. Louis management if Pujols would leave, the personal backlash he would suffer would be immensely greater if he played for Chicago than if he went anywhere else. Would he be willing to burn the bridge that leads to his St. Louis legacy.
The Cubs raised some eyebrows when they signed former Rays first sacker Carlos Pena to a one-year deal, potentially creating an opening for Pujols if he should reach the open market. But the Cubs have to be more keenly aware than any other major league club what it means to overpay a player to land him.
Just look to left field where the Cubs will pay Alfonso Soriano through the 2014 season. Last season marked the first time since 2006 that Soriano was able to stay healthy for at least 135 games. But he's still managed to rack up 127 strikeouts a season in that time while his outfield defense continues to worsen.
Soriano was only 30 years old in 2010. Could his decline convince the Cubs that they don't want to commit to a 10-year deal even with Albert Pujols? Such a contract would pay The Mang through his 42nd birthday. If anybody is going to get stupid with the money, it's them.
Again, the only answer to this situation is for the Cardinals to quit messing around and make their best offer before Pujols hits the open market. I can't see him coming back if it becomes a free agent feeding frenzy situation.