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Albert Pujols' game of Chicken reaching point of no return

While speculation abounds, I guess we'll soon see how far this story about the Cubs being interested in Albert Pujols is going to go.

Pujols' agent said that the free agent slugger plans to meet in person with any team that is a serious contender for his services to talk with them about their plans. So, until that happens, it would appear that the speculation won't amount to much.

If Pujols does go to see the Cubs, well, that would change things considerably.

I think it would damage Pujols' reputation amongst St. Louis fans a great deal if he seriously entertained thoughts of defecting to the Redbirds' greatest enemy. How can he expect loyalty and support from the fans in St. Louis when he goes out on a date with their sworn enemies to the north. It's like a Hatfield dining with a McCoy. It just ain't right.

With confirmation today in the St. Louis paper that the Cardinals offered Pujols $198 million for nine years in the spring (and isn't it funny that there is confirmation when both sides agreed that they weren't going to talk about negotiations publicly) it would seem Albert's claims that his top priority wasn't who would pay him the most money would be exposed as a crock.

The Cardinals appear to be calling Albert's bluff by going public. And Albert's agent Dan Lazano seems to be using Chicago to try to force the Redbirds to up their ante.

I've said it before and I will say it again: Why don't the Cardinals drop off the last year of the Pujols contract and make the deal an even $200 million for eight years?

That would give Pujols the third-highest total payout in history -- and the highest for a person not named Alex Rodriguez -- plus, by chopping off a year the deal would go from $22 million a season to $25 million. That would put it among the top handful of deals in major league history in terms of annual value. The deal would be good for the Redbirds because the year of service they lose is at the end of the deal, which means they'd possibly miss out on a 41-year-old Pujols. If Albert is reasonable, he would agree to defer $3 million a year to keep the Birds on budget at $22 million a year.

If that doesn't get the deal done, if I was the St. Louis general manager I would be willing to go to $225 million over nine years. But that's the final offer. I couldn't imagine anyone would offer Pujols more than $250 million for 10 years. And if he is willing to leave over that relatively small amount of money, he really didn't want to play here anyway.

In the end, I still believe the Cubs are trying to jack up Pujols' price for the Cardinals while trying to drive down Prince Fielder's cost. And, ultimately, I believe Pujols will finish his career in St. Louis and Fielder will sign with Chicago.

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