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UCB Project: Top five Cardinals headlines of 2011

The January project of the United Cardinal Bloggers is to predict the top five Cardinals-related headlines of 2011.

Mine are listed in order of likelihood with number one being the most likely and number five the least.

1) Pujols headed for free agency after reporting to spring training without a deal -- I want to believe Albert is going to sign a deal before Feb. 18, saving all of us in Cardinals Nation a ton of undeserved anguish. But I just don't see it happening unless he is willing to significantly back off his reported demand of $300 million over 10 years. Unfortunately, time is on The Mang's side. But I believe if he hits the open marker things become a lot more about how much he gets and a lot less about where he wants to play.

2) Pujols wins the triple crown -- This wouldn't be a surprise. Albert has always been best when the chips are down and he would be motivated to put up big numbers in his walk year. He'll also benefit from batting in front of a settled in Matt Holliday. But, it could be the final straw in the chances of his return to St. Louis. He'd be at the peak of his marketability and $300 million over 10 years might seem a little light...

3) Berkman injures knee, out for season -- Don't get me wrong, I'm rooting for Berkman. But age and health are not on his side. If he stays productive, he'll be a big boost for the Cardinals offense. But I am afraid the chances of a renaissance are much less than a flameout.

4) Cardinals ink Carpenter to two-year extension (two years for $20 million instead of picking up his $15-million option -- If they sign Pujols or not, the Cardinals are going to need pitching in 2011 and beyond. Carpenter has made his money in his current contract -- including in 2006 and 2007 when he barely played. Hopefully he'll be agreeable to a team-friendly deal.

5) Pujols rejects proposed trade to Angels. This is sort of a wild guess. But if it becomes apparent the Cardinals can't sign Pujols and if they fall out of the race that they'll try to get something for him... Not to mention to steer him away from the Cubs. Will Albert accept a deal? Who knows? But the chances would be much greater if he could hammer out an extension with the Halos before a deal went down.