Although he was only 24 and a good three years away from becoming a free agent, the Cardinals on Feb. 4, 2004 signed 24-year-old first baseman Albert Pujols to a seven-year, $100-million contract that was the richest in team history until Matt Holliday's $120-million contract signed prior to the 2010 season.
Pujols hit .359 with 43 homers in 2003 and appeared to be headed for a rough arbitration hearing when the breathtaking deal was announced. Although it seemed like a risky move at the time because of how early Pujols was in his career, the contract has to go down as one of the best deals in baseball history.
For their investment, Albert has provided the Cardinals with:
-Three National League MVP awards
-One National League Championship MVP award
-A World Series title
-Three years of leading the NL in slugging
-At least a .314 batting average every year of his career
-At least 32 homers every year
While his $16 million a year seemed ridiculously huge in 2004, he is almost un-arguably the best player in baseball, yet he is the games 19th highest paid player at slightly more than a third -- in terms of total contract value -- of what Alex Rodriguez makes.
The Cardinals are said to be quietly negotiating a contract extension with Pujols that could double his annual paycheck.