Albert wants a contract comparable to to the one that made Alex Rodriguez the highest-paid player in baseball history. The Cardinals want a deal that will allow them to put a competitive supporting cast on the field. Here it is:
Albert gets $26 million a year for 10 years. For the first seven years, $5 million per season is deferred without interest. For the last three years, $15 million is deferred without interest. Pujols gets $5 million per year upon his retirement for 16 years.
This is EASILY the second-richest guaranteed contract in baseball history. But it gives the Cardinals the opportunity to surround Pujols with a strong supporting cast throughout his career and to avoid a financial albatross on the back end of the deal. It also passes muster by being richer than the $25 million a year average of Philadelphia first sacker Ryan Howard's deal.
Pujols would likely have received a multi-million personal services contract to promote the Redbirds anyway. But I think he can afford to give that up and show up on opening day 2023 for free since he is going to have a nice retirement fund already in place.
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Alex Rodriguez's record contract has $30 million worth of incentives in it that could push it over the $300 million mark. So let's put the same sort of incentives in Albert's deal so he hits the magic $300 million plateau. He gets $10 million for breaking Babe Ruth's Mark of 714 homers, $10 million for breaking Henry Aaron's 755 and $20 million if he breaks the all-time record as it stands, whether it is held by Barry Bonds or A-Rod.
The first two incentives are payable in $5 million deferments tacked on the end of the regular deferment payments, stretching them to 20 years. If he breaks the all-time record, it should be payable within one year because of all the merchandising that will be associated with the project. If Albert breaks those records, he deserves the money because he will almost certainly have to be one of the greatest 20 players to ever play the game. If he doesn't make it, he doesn't get the extra payday. But it's not like he'd miss it.
While the deferments might seem to be lengthy, it's the most reasonable way to pay Pujols an amount appropriate for his place in the baseball pecking order. There's no way he could feel cheated. And he'll get to save his legacy in St. Louis while playing the place he claims he wants to play.
If it's more important to be the highest paid player in terms of average annual value, the Cardinals could offer to pay $30 million over seven years, or $210 million. Or they could offer $28 million over eight seasons, $234 million. But I think, while the players association will likely balk at all the deferments, that it is a positive contract even from their standpoint. It's breaking ground as the largest ever payout by a mid-market team. And that makes it appealing since it can be spun so as not to appear as a rollback on A-Rod's ridiculous deal.
While the Cardinals don't want to go 10 years, the structure of the deal will make the longer term much more palatable. Instead of potentially paying Pujols $30 million for years eight, nine and ten, the'll only be shelling out about the same amount that they've payed Kyle Lohse to sit in the whirlpool the last two years. And if Pujols keeps producing into his late thirties, they've got him locked up on team-friendly terms.
Let's get this done, people. Now.