I know Albert well enough that once he gets into spring training, he doesn't like distractions," (Cardinals manager Tony) La Russa said Wednesday. "I just know where the heart and heads of both the team and the player [are]. They want it to work out. They'll work at it, and we'll see what happens. Once we get ready officially for 2011, Albert's the strongest between the ears that you can find, and nothing's going to get in his way."
If not, he's gone. Because he has 10 years overall and 5 in St. Louis, he would have veto rights over any midseason deal, even if he would recognize it as a rent-a-player situation.
I see something in the neighborhood of 7 years, $200 million. And, except for some fielding decline in 2010, most his value numbers have held steady for 4-5 years and, I expect, these numbers will not significantly decline for the next 5, or the next 4 years into a new contract:
Year Tm Rfield Rrep RAR WAR oRAR oWAR dWAR
2001 STL 6 19 69 6.9 63 6.4 0.5
2002 STL -4 18 56 5.8 60 6.2 -0.4
2003 STL 14 18 107 10.9 93 9.5 1.4
2004 STL 15 18 93 9.4 78 7.9 1.5
2005 STL 9 19 79 8.2 70 7.2 1.0
2006 STL 14 16 83 8.3 69 7.0 1.3
2007 STL 25 18 82 8.3 57 5.8 2.5
2008 STL 18 17 94 9.6 76 7.8 1.8
2009 STL 12 18 88 9.2 76 7.8 1.4
2010 STL -2 19 72 7.2 74 7.4 -0.2
10 Seasons 107 180 823 83.8 716 73.0 10.8
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
That said, who's got the money AND a location acceptable to Prince Albert if Mozeliak and DeWitt aren't going to cough up $200 million?
1. Chicago. And, a definite 1B opening. And, a fan base that after initial ooginess, would certainly welcome him. That one-year Carlos Pena contract is nothing.
2. Houston, if it wants to immediately vault to NL Central relevance. (Would probably piss off Brett Wallace to be stuck behind Pujols again.)
3. Atlanta? Definitely. With an aging Phillies team, a still-struggling Mets, and a who-knows Nats, a strong move.
4. The Dodgers - IF the McCourt fiasco gets wrapped up quickly enough. But, not sure that's a team Pujols would visit.
4. Mets - See Braves and Astros.
6. Baltimore badly needs a 1B, but not sure it wants to spend like that.
7. The Angels? If they thought they could move Kendry Morales, sure. Especially now that they lost the Crawford sweepstakes this year. But, that's kind of a big if.
8. The Giants. Hmm ... they've got new money, and Huff ain't getting younger.
My guess on Pujols' preferences? Chicago, then Houston. Just a hunch he might have some revenge factor. Folks at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch are thinking coastal only; a poll offers neither of those top options I suggest.
Meanwhile, via an excellent blog on team salaries, here's further assessment of the top contenders' chances.
The Cubs have a good financial setup for chasing Pujols.
Ramirez, Silva, Fukodome all come off after 2011; Dempster, Zambrano after 2012. Fukodome is out; Ramriez is out if not club friendly and ditto for Silva. Like the same on the 2012s.
Astros? Smaller payroll, but no big contracts end in 2011, and just Carlos Lee in 2012.
Braves? No big contracts end after 2011, but both Derek Lowe and Chipper Jones after 2012. They could take a big jump for one year for Pujols and then be better off.
Mets? Beltran's contract ends in 2011; so does Francisco Rodriguez and Oliver Perez.
Angels? Pineiro and Abreu end after this year, but neither has a huge contract and both could be resigned.
So, the Cubs will have a fair amount of free money and in a big market. Astros? It depends on their mentality. Mets will have plenty of money, but doesn't strike me as a Pujols top option. Braves would have to eat a one-year spike, but from 2013 on, would be better set.
So, with that in mind, I'll move Braves up to No. 2 in the running, drop the Astros to No. 3, put the Mets at 4 and Angels at 5.
As for the ridiculousness, seemingly, of paying Lance Berkman $8 million to play either LF or RF? Let's not forget that Fat Elvis can also play 1B, just in case the Cards are able to pull the trigger finger on a trade of Pujols.
And, John Mozeliak is an idiot for not working on a new contract for him at the same time the Phillies did for Howard.
The team as a whole still has the "huh?" factor. Owner Bill DeWitt says talks may not start until January.
That said, the odds that he is gone at or before the start of 2012? 50-50, in my book.
Meanwhile, if the management decides to pull the trigger on a trade, it's not trying to right now. That would be all over the rumor mills.