Albert Pujols said that he didn’t want to negotiate after spring training started because he didn’t want his expiring contract to be a distraction this season. Well, good luck with that.
The current frenzy will certainly die down, but I expect Pujols’ contract to come up early and often as the season goes on. And why wouldn’t it? It’s not every day that one of the best hitters in the history of baseball comes this close to free agency. I don’t know who Ken Rosenthal’s source on this is, but if he’s right, the Cards may have seriously lowballed Pujols:
As many people have pointed out, including Craig Calcaterra at Hardball Talk and Christina Kahrl at Baseball Prospectus, the lack of a deal at this artificially created “deadline” hardly means that there won’t be a deal at some point. Still, I was struck by the negativity of Bill DeWitt, the Cardinals Chairman, when asked if he thought there was still a chance Pujols signs with the Cards after this season:
“I think that’s hard to say at this point,” DeWitt said. “We tried last offseason, so maybe the third time will be the charm… We did make every effort. We started the process early and had good dialogue throughout. It wasn’t that we ran out of time, it’s just that we were unable to reach agreement.”
That may just be a negotiating ploy or a PR stance, but he didn’t sound hopeful.
I don’t feel like I have a very good grip on Albert Pujols’ personality. I’ve seen a lot of reporters say recently that he’s a good guy, and they would know better than me, but in my own (admittedly quite brief) personal experience, covering the 2006 NLCS, he was an abrasive jerk with the media. There’s no reason why St. Louis fans would, or should, care about that – watching him play baseball is a beautiful thing, and that’s what’s important there. I only bring it up because I wonder what impact his personality might have on these negotiations. There’s no obligation for him to take less money than he could get elsewhere to play in St. Louis, and few athletes do. But I wonder if he will insist on being the highest-paid player ever, and whether there’s any room for compromise.
It’s always nice when a great player is able to stay with a team for his whole career – but if Pujols gets cut loose, that’ll be fascinating to watch in its own right, and it’s hard not to feed the hype on this.