The Cardinals are unlikely to move much higher than the nine-year offer they reportedly made worth a little bit better than $200 million, according to SI.com's Jon Heyman.
But the usual cast of un-named major league executives now predicts that the Redbirds' offer likely represents the top of the market for the soon to be 32-year-old slugging first baseman -- not the $275 million for 10 years that Alex Rodriguez got a few years back from the Yankees. And if that's the case, Pujols is more than likely to return to the Cardinals for the rest of his career.
"None of the four execs suggest Pujols would beat Alex Rodriguez's record $275 million, 10-year deal, as he has requested, according to sources," Hayman wrote. "The consensus seemed to be that Pujols would receive somewhere in the neighborhood of what he was reportedly offered from the Cardinals"
It would be good news for the Redbirds if there wasn't a wildcard bidder out there who threw a monkey wrench into the works. If the Cardinals are near the best offer, most people I have talked to seem to believe that Pujols would prefer to stay in St. Louis. The fear is that the Cardinals will offer nine years for $200-210 million and somebody like the Cubs will come in with a 10-year deal for $250-260 million.
"Most executives suggested they favored the Cardinals to retain Pujols," Heyman continued. "As for Fielder, teams mentioned as possible landing spots included the Orioles, Blue Jays, Nationals, Cubs, Rangers, Giants, Dodgers, Angels and Mariners. Fielder may be willing to DH, which could potentially bring the Yankees into play for him -- though that seems like a longshot. Seattle's GM is Jack Zduriencik, who was the scouting director in Milwaukee when the Brewers drafted Fielder, so a couple execs figured the Mariners as a definite possibility for Prince."
Team executives seem to be split on who will get the bigger deal, Pujols or his Milwaukee counterpart, Prince Fielder. "The NL assistant GM who didn't favor one player over the other said, 'It could go either way. I'd be surprised if either goes much north of $200 million in total dollars.'''
While there will be some posturing to portray himself as the winner of negotiations, Pujols shouldn't be a tough negotiating partner for the Cardinals.
"Another NL executive said, 'Albert has to beat what the Cardinals offered, but I think he stays in St. Louis. Fielder may be young enough where it's seven or eight years and over 20 (million a year) but probably under Adrian Gonzalez. Gonzalez is a Gold Glove defender and better hitter but has less power. He's just a better player,'" Heyman wrote.
"Another NL exec said, "Pujols gets a higher annual salary. If I'm the agent, it's simple, I say he's the best, he deserves to be paid the most. I think St. Louis should be able to spend on Pujols. Teixeira had Boston and New York playing against each, and maybe that added 10 percent. I think Prince is kind of aligned with Adrian Gonzalez.''
While Pujols and Fielder might like to top A-Rod's deal as the largest in the majors, the evidence is mounting that the Yankees tremendously overpaid for the fading superstar. On the hook for at least $143 million more through the 2017 season, Rodriguez has broken down physically since signing his new deal prior to the 2008 season.
Once considered to be a shoe-in to break Barry Bonds' all-time homer mark, A-Rod hit only 16 homers in 2011 thanks to extended absences from the field due to injuries to run his longball total aground at 629. Now most experts seem to believe the 35-year-old player who hasn't hit .300 in three years has no chance to break the homer record. He's taking heat from Yankee fans for slipping in the clutch and it's likely sooner rather than later that he'll be relegated only to designated hitter duty.
That has to be a sobering reality check for teams that have thought about trying to out-bid the Cardinals for Pujols.