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Pujols: How Much Is Too Much?
Posted By Christopher Rowe On Feb 16 2011 @ 1:56 pm In MLB | 4 Comments
Rumorologists, rumor mongers and rumor specialists – including Timex Social Club (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ssm_MLoj74 ) of all varieties (professional, ad hoc, pro bono and those maintaining their amateur standing for Olympics) have indicated that the big story heading into the 2011 MLB season is the impending contract expiration of Albert Pujols – arguably the best player in baseball. King Albert is seeking a 10-year contract worth $300 Million, which would eclipse the contract of Alex Rodriguez (10 years $275 Million) and make Pujols proposed new contract the most lucrative in baseball history. Prince Fielder is likely to follow suit accordinf to what happens with Pujols. Some sources claim that the Player’s Union is pushing Pujols to leverage his talents in an effort to raise the gold standard for player contracts. Pundits claim this has already been established with recent deals for lesser big name players like Jayson Werth (7 years $126M), Carl Crawford (7 years, $142M), Adrian Gonzalez (7 years, $154M) or Cliff Lee (5 years $125 Million). Recent veteran signings such as Mark Teixeira (8 years, $180M), Kyle Lohse (4 years, $41M), Matt Holliday (7 years, $120M) or CC Sabathia (7 years, $152M) tempered with the reactionary youth lockdown of potential franchise players such as Troy Tulowitzsky (6 years, $118M), Carlos Gonzalez (7 years, $80M), Jay Bruce (6 years, $51M)
and Joey Votto (3 years, $38M) could be considered pre-emptive efforts to avoid contract extortion in later years.
Potential 2012 free agents such as Prince Fielder, Chris Carpenter, Heath Bell and a litany of would-be bank robbers have already begun salivating at what they might garner on the open market. Their 2011 teams will likely trade these lame-duck players in the hopes of acquiring prospects for the future rather than simply lose their asset with no return (compensated with draft picks for Type A free agents).
Pujols (8 years, $111M) remains the defining player of the past decade in Major League Baseball. Amid The Steroids Era and pursuant investigations that have tarnished the legendary status of Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmiero, Albert Pujols has been silent and clean, simply going about his business of leading his peers and historical baseball legends in most categories. At the age of 31, Pujols has the luxury to wonder which will come first – his plaque in Cooperstown or a statue outside of Busch Stadium. Pujols’ numbers have been consistent, obnoxious and un challenged by all of the steroids talk which torpedoes most of the great figures of the 1990s and early 2000. He is always in top 10 major offensive categories and has led the league in HR twice (2009 & 2010), RBI (2010), runs scored (5 years), batting average (2003 and is active career leader) and total bases (4 years) and has 3 MVP, 9 All-Star appearances, one Rookie of Year, 2 Hank Aaron Awards, a Clemente Award, Lou Gehrig Award, 6 Silver Slugger Awards, 2 Gold Gloves Awards and one World Series championship in his decade with the St. Louis Cardinals.
The question most people have asked thus far is whether or not Pujols will get his proposed 10-year, $300 million contract. The question that should be asked is whether or not it is possible for a Major League Baseball franchise to commit that much money to a 31-year-old first baseman at the zenith of a colorful career?
New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels (of Anaheim), Philadelphia Phillies, Milwaukee Brewers, San Francisco Giants, Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Atlanta Braves, Baltimore Orioles, Washington Nationals, Minnesota Twins, New York Mets. This would be a representative list of the MLB clubs that might be able to fiscally accommodate the demands of a 10-year, $300 million contract. Any club could theoretically sign Pujols as a free agent but how many teams can really afford $30 million per year for one player?
Willingness factors into the mix as does residual effect and cascade salary repercussions. Teams would have to be willing to commit that much money and that many years to one player, who would likely be on the decline for the entire second half of the contract. Paying one player that much for that long a period would limit the club’s options to surround that player with a supporting cast virtually handcuffing the franchise for all roster moves – especially in those waning 5 years on the backside of the 10-year deal. In return, the game’s most consistent, cleanest and arguably greatest player would be theirs for 10 years, subject to marketing, promoting and community investment. Bottom line: is the reward worth the risk?
For most teams (even those named) the answer would be a resounding “Heck, no!” A handful of teams could afford to take such a risk without possibly sinking the franchise. The Yankees have proven this with “ARod,” Sabathia and Mark Teixeira – not to mention their bottomless coffers outpouring lucrative deals for Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera, AJ Bennett, Rafael Soriano, Swisher and the rest. Perhaps by 2013 the payroll will be below $200 million ($196 Million in 2011) but that might be too late to get Pujols. Would the Bronx Bombers part with Teixeira and Granderson to swing a deal for Pujols or simply wait until free agency? Boston Red Sox or New York Mets (ownership quandaries aside) have the financial viability to ink a deal – but would they? Boston has Adrian Gonzalez who might be the best Red Sox first baseman since Carl Yazstremsky. The Mets…used to have the resources and could certainly use the gate value of an Albert Pujols, but they’ve been burned by big contracts so frequently in recent years (Piazza, Hampton, Santana, Beltran, Bonilla, KRod, Oliver Perez, etc.) that they may simply be too gun shy. Having an Albert Pujols in a community such as Queens with the media savvy of Madison Avenue and revenue stream of Citi Field would be an unbeatable combination for what has become a directionless and faceless franchise.
Either Los Angeles franchise could make the move but the Dodgers are busy trying to pay their current salaries, let alone take on a boondoggle of new obligations. Angels just netted Vernon Wells, Torii Hunter and sport a ballooning payroll. Dodgers seem to be a team in need of a leader. Mannywood didn’t last long and even Joe Torre is gone, leaving Don Mattingly & Co with James Loney, Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp as the marquee faces of the new Dodgers franchise.
Even a sterling commodity such as Albert Pujols would have significant risk at $30M – but with a ten year deal? Should Pujols (or his agent or the MLBPA) concede the ten-year deal aspect and ask for say $30 Million over a reduced number of years, it puts most of the teams mentioned back in play. Baltimore, Washington, Minnesota and Milwaukee all have reasons not to land Pujols – and all of them are financially strapped by existing deals. Minnesota has invested in Mauer and Morneau, Baltimore has a group consisting of Mark Reynolds, Vlad Guererro, Derek Lee, etc. while Washington just increased the national debt with their Jayson Werth deal and are committed to investments in Stephen Strasberg and Bryce Harper. San Francisco remains a possible landing site as does Philadelphia, but both clubs would have to do a lot of contract shuffling in order to accommodate El Jefe’s salary demands. Philly could defray some of the cost by including Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez in a trade while the Giants would likely need to clear out salary dead weight like Pat Burrell, Cody Ross, Miguel Tejada and Kung Fu Panda (Sandoval) while accommodating their pitching staff. Atlanta remains the wildcard. They have the funds with the Turner Empire and we know that the once-proud 14-straight division title team would like to return to greatness… but Pujols is one player. More importantly, this is a team that has been VERY successful built on starting pitching first and offense second. Chipper Jones is in his final year and not since Fred McGriff has this team overspent on a first baseman. Maybe they pass on Pujols and “settle” for Prince Fielder or another veteran shaken out of the tree as a cascade Pujols effect?
 The problem with the free market is that the price paid is based on what one party will pay, not what the investment is empirically worth. Ergo, caveat emptor (let the buyer beware) that an investment in Albert Pujols carries great risk as well as great reward. If Gordon Gecko were running an MLB team or the MLBPA, he would reference his own “Greed is Good” mantra. More money spent means more money spent in the future. More money spent usually means more money made by the parties involved – which generally leads back to more money being spent.
As the global economy has learned from experience, the proverbial bubble can get REALLY big right before it bursts and then there is significant fallout and lot of clean-up. Pujols could be a pariah or a savior, a Prince or a mercenary, a force for good or an instrument of evil… or he could just be a very talented baseball player making an exceptionally first-class living in a town near you.
Who would like to start the bidding @ $300 million?
Yankees? Toronto? Washington? Texas? Florida? Anaheim?
RELATED ARTICLE: http://www.prosportsblogging.com/2011/10/24/save-the-ecomony-start-with-sports/ 
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