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Gonzalez could reduce Pujols' leverage

There's a story today in the San Diego Union-Tribune in which the Padres' CEO said he has all but given up on the possibility of signing slugging first baseman Adrian Gonzalez to a contract extension.

It's bad news for San Diego, a club that had less than a $38 million payroll in 2010. But it could be good news for Cardinals fans.

If the Redbirds have one thing in their favor in the Albert Pujols showdown, it's that there are few teams out there that either can afford to pay Pujols more than St. Louis. Meanwhile, the major league's biggest spender, the Yankees, already have a $180 million first baseman under contract.

If Gonzalez is too rich for San Diego's blood, the Padres will likely try to trade him this offseason to a team that can afford him. And the club that has figured most prominently in Gonzalez rumors over the last two seasons and that most desperately wants a slugger to compete with those Yankees is the Red Sox.

If Gonzales gets traded to Boston and signs an extension, that would likely take baseball's second biggest spender out of the Pujols derby.

There are still other teams to worry about, however. The Cubs are without a big bat at first base after Derek Lee departed to Atlanta in a late season trade. The Mets have a bunch of money coming off the books after 2011 including the awful $12 million a year deal they gave Oliver Perez, the $18.5 million Carlos Beltran will make and quite possibly the $11.5 million annually they pay Francisco Rodriguez (New York is trying to void his contract after he was charged in the felonious assault of his girlfriend's father). The Dodgers, Angels and White Sox could also be a factor.