I wonder if Albert Pujols was listening last night when Adam Wainwright was interviewed by MLB-TV after the World Series.
The Cardinals hurler was asked if he was excited about the fact that the team picked up his 2012 and 2013 options or if he wanted to try to test the market as a free agent. Wainwright said he was absolutely thrilled -- although some might think the deal that will pay him $21 million over two years was below market, especially when he'll make more than $2 million less than Kyle Lohse next season, and he said he was absolutely thrilled. He went on to say "I wanted no part of free agency. This is where I want to be."
I'm hoping that is a common sentiment in the Cardinals clubhouse because the makeup of this team could be a major factor in whether or not Pujols stays.
I sincerely wonder if Pujols would take $250 million from the Cubs for 10 years if the Cardinals offerend $200 million over eight. Because there's a lot more to that deal than money. The Redbirds have a legitimate chance to contend for another World Series in 2012. Chicago's future is completely up in the air, to say the least.
I would dare say that there is no team in baseball that has a better shot to win the World Series, as things are on paper right now, than the Cardinals.
The Phillies are going to be a force. But they lost their slugging first baseman to a major injury that could keep him out for a part of next season They declined options to retain starting pitcher Roy Oswalt and closer Brad Lidge and they could lose shortstop Jimmy Rollins to Free agency. Meanwhile, Placido Polanco, Chase Utley and Raul Ibanez aren't exactly getting any younger. And, while Howard is out, the Phillies aren't going to be able to replace him because they owe him $125 million over the next five years.
The Rangers may very well lose ace C.J. Wilson to free agency and their rotation, while solid, isn't really dominant beyond him. Where will they find another ace? Texas' bullpen, which was supposed to be so good, killed them in the World Series. Their closer is an accident waiting to happen and the club knows it. Remember, it was the Rangers who were the Cardinals' chief competition in the derby for the Padres' closer that never got out of the starting gate.
The Red Sox are in a shambles. The Yankees pitching needs a major overhaul -- and that's if C.C. Sabathia decides to come back. That leaves the Dodgers and the Angels as major threats to scrape together the cash to sign Pujols. The Angels have been an underachiever and the core of players that made them so good in the early 2000s are either aging or gone. And the Dodgers are the dictionary definition of instability because of their bankruptcy woes.
Meanwhile, we know this about the Cardinals:
The 2012 starting rotation will include two pitchers who have been finalists for the NL Cy Young Award over the last three years: Chris Carpenter and Wainwright. Jaime Garcia signed a contract extension this year that will keep him in the fold for four seasons and Kyle Lohse and Jake Westbrook are under control for another season. When they're done, the Cardinals will phase in Shelby Miller, Marc Rzepczynski, Lance Lynn or Kyle McClellan.
As far as the offense goes, Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman will be in the middle of the order for support. Proven RBI guy and all-world defender Yadier Molina will be behind the plate and young guns David Freese and Jon Jay will be in the offensive mix.
That's a darn good foundation to build around. if the Cardinals keep the exact same roster for next season they had on the last day of the year, they might win 100 games. But if they don't they can exercise Octavio Dotel's option, slide Daniel Descalso into the mix at second base to replace Ryan Theriot and/or Nick Punto and sign a shortstop who can catch the ball and still be the favorites to win their division.
Barring a rash of injuries or a decision to trade half the roster for a bucket of bolts, this ought to be a good team for years to come.