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Pujols countdown: 3 days

On one hand, it's encouraging to hear the people who pull the strings in Baltimore say that the Orioles wouldn't pay $30 million a year for Albert Pujols.

But I find it hard to take much comfort in that kind of statement as it looks more and more apparent that the Cardinals won't get Pujols locked up with a new contract prior to the time the best player in baseball arrives at spring training on Wednesday.

Why?

Well, first, when it comes to major league checkwriters, what they say about which players they will bid on and how much they are willing to spend means absolutely nothing. Second, no logic applies to free agent bidding wars. And it only takes one deep pocketed idiot to screw up the entire situation.

General managers and owners love to play possum and then jump in at the last minute like the Phillies did this off-season with Cliff Lee. The Yankees got burned this time around. But, usually, they're the team jumping in. I don't buy for a minute that the Yankees aren't interested in Pujols just because they have Mark Teixeira at first base. Not as long as the American League has the designated hitter, at least. And there is no team that money means less to than the Yankees. Then you have the Cubs who would love nothing better than to turn the tables on the Cardinals by stealing their best player. Chicago has a ton of money coming off the books in 2012, so they'll be loaded for bear when the hot stove league opens for business. Would Pujols play for the Cubs and destroy his St. Louis legacy? I don't know. But does it matter? The Wee Bears could still drive up the bidding past the point that the Cardinals are willing to pay. And, disturbed by Lee taking less money from the Phillies, the Major League Baseball Players Association could put big pressure on Pujols to take top dollar.

I don't know what it is about baseball history that could possibly make the Cardinals believe Pujols' price is going to come down if he makes it to the open market.

The time to sign a player of Pujols' ilk is before he nears free agency. The closer he gets to hitting the open market, the less likely he is to take a discounted deal. The Redbirds waited and waited and were burned by the Phillies' surprising $25 million for five years extension. Still the Redbirds play hardball with Albert.

I can't imagine that more waiting is going to do anything besides make matters worse.

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