It's pretty easy to imagine how Philadelphia's signing of Ryan Howard will impact the Cardinals' negotiations with Albert Pujols. What may be tougher to peg is how the Rangers' Monday Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing might affect the team's ability to sign their superstar.
How could the financial dealings of a team in a different league have any relevance to the Redbirds? Well, The Rangers owe a whole gaggle of players deferred money the most prominent of which is Alex Rodriguez who was supposed to get just shy of $25 million from his playing days in Texas. When the Rangers filed bankruptcy, those players became unsecured creditors who stand to get pennies on the dollar of what they originally expected to be paid when they inked their deals.
The Cardinals, no doubt, are going to have to get creative when it comes to inking the best player in baseball to a new contract. And the easiest way to do that is to defer huge amounts of money over time to lessen the immediate blow to the payroll. Pujols' current pact with the Cardinals calls for him to have $3 million a year of the money he is to be paid for the 2007-2011 seasons deferred without interest. it will be be paid in $1.2-million installments from 2020-2029. Current players Chris Carpenter and Matt Holliday also have deferred payments written into their contracts, not to mention that former Birds Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen -- currently playing with National League Central Division rivals -- still have money coming from the Cardinals.
If the Rangers get away with their bankruptcy claim, which is filed on behalf of the club and not owner Tom Hicks or his professional sports operating company, Hicks Sports Group, it may change the whole landscape of how major league baseball contracts are written. Even if individual players are willing to take the risk that owners aren't going to file bankruptcy and weasel out of their agreements with players, it's more than likely that the Major League Players Association will move to forbid deferments.
The Players Association already seems to take a dim view of deferments, complaining that it distorts the "real value" of contracts. The argument is that it would be worth more to the players to get their money now so they have the ability to invest it and gain interest instead of letting the team hang onto it and pay them without interest later. Now that possibility that players could be stiffed or be forced to take less than they agreed to has become a reality, deferred payments are going to become a lot tougher to swallow.
We've seen baseball hotbeds like Kansas City, Pittsburgh and most recently Cleveland fall on hard times. Maybe deferred contracts need to go for the long-term health of baseball. But I just don't see how the Cardinals are going to be able to re-sign Albert Pujols without spreading out the payments past Albert's playing days.
It's completely plausible to imagine that major league clubs could get to the point where they owed so much money to players who no longer play for them that they can't field a competitive roster in the here and now. Suddenly the team starts losing, fans lose interest and attendance declines. So revenue goes down and the team in question can't afford the mortgage on its fancy new stadium... Next thing you know, it's bankruptcy time.
Maybe banning deferred contracts would be best for the financial health of baseball. But it's sure going to make it a lot harder to re-sign Pujols.