With only 12 days until his self imposed negotiating deadline, the Albert Pujols talks with the Cardinals are "not moving at all" according to ESPN's Buster Olney.
It appears that the Redbirds are keeping their powder dry until they see the whites of Albert's eyes. They'll basically make a last minute only slightly flexible offer just before the deadline and, if Pujols turns up his nose, it's a one-way ticket to free agency.
I'm not sure of the logic behind this strategy. What is the disadvantage to Pujols to wait until next off-season to have his pick of several offers? It would seem to me that if the team is interested in keeping the best player in baseball that it would want to take advantage of its one-on-one negotiating time instead of getting involved in a bidding war. But the Cardinals are gambling the future of St. Louis baseball on the idea that Pujols won't get as much money as he thinks he is going to get because of his age. He'll be 32 when he hits free agency.
There are a couple of problems with that logic. First, and most importantly, all it takes is one idiot to screw up the whole plan. The Cubs and Mets are salivating at the chance to boost their sad sack franchises with a big free agent splash. And, second, the club is burning the good will Pujols has towards the team and the St. Louis fans by treating him with perceived disrespect. It would be easy to imagine Pujols turning bitter toward the club because of these games and heading out of town like his buddy Edgar Renteria did a few years back.
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Even if no one offers Pujols a 10-year deal, it's nearly certain that the Cardinals won't be the high bidder. That's just not their way. But a five-year, $35-million a season payday from a New York, Chicago or Los Angeles club isn't hard to envision. The club's low hanging fruit philosophy doesn't mesh with the situation of trying to sign the most sought after player in the game.
Despite the numbers, I always thought -- as many national media pundits seem to believe -- that the match between the Cardinals and Pujols was too perfect to break up. But with every second that passes, I am less optimistic. And I finally have started to believe that is is less likely that the Birds will keep Pujols than it is that they will do what they need to do to keep him around.