I've been doing a lot of thinking about the Albert Pujols contract situation, and this is what I think the Cardinals need to do: Give Pujols a five-year contract for $140-$150 million and a series of two or three options on the end.
The Redbirds would be much better served to sign Pujols to a high average value shorter term contract than a deal that would pay Pujols something more along the lines of $20 million a year for 10 years. Under that sort of deal, Pujols will almost certainly have greatly declined by the end. So the team would have a bunch of dead weight on the payroll when it needs to try to replace the game's best player in 2010.
The options would give Pujols the opportunity to finish his career in St. Louis, should he still be playing at a high level after 2010. They could make the options vest based on plate appearances, or they could get more creative and offer to extend to vest an option and extend the deal by a year should Albert win a National League MVP award.
$28-30 million a year is a lot of money. But we have to remember, the Birds don't have to go out and find $30 million. They are already paying Pujols $16 million a year. So, basically, they need to raise the payroll $14 million and keep everything else the same.
If that seems like an overly simplistic way of looking at things, consider the fact that Pujols sells tens of thousands of tickets -- not to mention the hot dogs, $9 beers, $15 parking spaces and souvenirs that go with that. If you give up Pujols, you're not saving $16 million in 2011 or 2012. You're going to lose a ton of revenue as well.
Pujols has played under value -- as we have talked about on these virtual pages many times before -- for the last several years. Ryan Howard, Carlos Beltran, Mark Teixeira and countless others all make tens of millions more than Pujols. So whatever they give him now has to be averaged out with the $16 million a year he has made for the last five seasons.
Bite the bullet, Cardinals, and give Pujols the big average deal so he can claim to be one of the highest paid players in the game and get a shorter termed deal in return.
Just get it done.