Cheap Seats

Blame the Yankees for Pujols drama

Reports out of New York indicate the Yankees have offered free agent pitcher Cliff Lee a contract that could pay in the area of $140 million over six seasons.

 

That's $23.3 million a season for a guy who plays every fifth day! What does a contract like that mean to the Albert Pujols negotiations when the slugging Cardinals first baseman makes an impact every day?

 

Leave it to the Yankees to throw tens of millions of dollars at a guy whose other main suitor is the Rangers, a team with a $64.8 payroll in 2010.

The Yankees have already set the bar impossibly high as St. Louis tries to make Pujols a Cardinal for life.

According to a report on Sports Illustrated's website, Pujols wants a contract similar to the $27.5 million per season for 10 years deal that Alex Rodriguez got three years ago from the Yanks. By all accounts, when Rodriguez signed his deal in 2010 no other teams had even inquired about his services. His agent, Scott Boras, humiliated the Yankees and irked the Red Sox when he announced during game four of Boston's World Series game against the Rockies that Rodriguez was opting out of his current deal.

Red Sox fans chanted "Don't sign A-Rod" during the game and afterward when asked about the likelihood of working out a new deal with their free agent third baseman Hank Steinbrenner replied "No chance."

A month later, even after Boston turned up it's nose and with full knowledge that there was no competition, New York gave Rodriguez the richest contract in baseball history and set the standard for elite players at the $30 million a year for 10 years mark. Meanwhile, the humbled third baseman should have been grateful to get $20 million a year for three to five seasons.

Even last year the Yankees were rumored to have been the monkey wrench in the Matt Holliday works.

While they publicly said they weren't interested in the slugging outfielder, reports after the fact indicated that New York offered a short term contract for $20 million to $25 million a year. The plan was to get Holliday for the short run and then let him become a free agent again this year when the talent pool was much more shallow than in 2009. Because of that move, the Cardinals had to guarantee Holliday seven years at $17 million to get a deal done.

Thanks Yankees. Are you trying to buy a championship or are you shooting for the big picture of eliminating the competition by bankrupting all the other clubs?

For what it's worth, Cardinals Chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. has announced that he has no intention of topping -- or even matching A-Rod's deal. He points out that the Yankees would likely tear up that deal if they could. No kidding.

But you can't unring the bell -- as evidenced by the fact that the Redbirds just paid $17.5 million for two years to Jake Westbrook. That's a pretty steep price for a fourth starter. But it's the going rate these days for a decent pitcher with a pulse, no matter that he missed almost all of the 2008 and 2009 seasons because of major arm surgery. Either clubs pay the cost or they risk losing their best players to other teams that are willing to up the ante with stupid bids. So it looks like the Cardinals and their best player are lined up for a high-priced game of chicken.

I only wish that the Cardinals had the cash to make a bid for Mariano Rivera. Sure, there's little chance they could get him. but it would be nice to make New York pay through the nose for a 41-year-old pitcher.

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