As we head into Spring Training, every team has their sights on the St Louis Cardinals. Not because of what they might do on the field, but instead, what is going on off the field. We are now under a week away from the self imposed deadline that Albert Pujols put on the Cardinals. On February 16, Pujols will no longer negotiate a long term contract with the Cardinals and will be destined to hit free agency after the season. In fact, a report from Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated indicates that there is virtually no chance that the Cardinals and Pujols will reach an agreement before the deadline. Which would put the Cubs among the front runners in the Pujols derby. Most executives around the Majors, as cited in the SI report, feel that the Cubs are prepping for a strong push to sign Pujols next winter.
This may sound crazy of me, but I am not entirely sure that Pujols would be the best fit for the Cubs next winter. The thing that you can not forget when thinking about Pujols, is he is asking for a 10 year deal worth $300 million. Although it may sound outrageous, I am more opposed to giving Pujols a 10 year deal as I am to giving him $300 million. For one, you have to take into account that Albert Pujols could very well go down as the best player to ever play the game, so $300MM does not seem too extreme. But, if Pujols gets a 10 year deal, that would mean that he would be signed through age 4o. At 30, Pujols may only have 4 or 5 more seasons of great production before his numbers begin to slide. Ideally, I would be willing to sign Pujols to a 7 year deal worth $224 million. Granted that comes out to $32 million a season, but it may make Pujols overlook the fact that it is not a 8 or 10 year deal.
However, Cubs fans should not overlook the fact that Prince Fielder will also become a free agent next winter. With Tom Ricketts wanting to put an emphasis on younger players, a 27 year old Fielder may sit better with him over a 31 year old Albert Pujols. You could even argue that over the course of the next 8 years, Fielder may be more productive than Pujols. As Fielder is only now entering his prime years, whereas Pujols is soon to be on the wrong side of 30. That is reason enough for me to think that Prince Fielder would be the smarter signing over Pujols, assuming Fielder is able to have a bounce back season in 2011.
Going back to Pujols, Ray DeRousse of Redbird Rants weighed the pros and cons of Pujols joining the Chicago Cubs. He essentially writes that if Pujols were to come to Chicago, it would be probably the most profitable for him of any other team- assuming he does not go to the Yankees or Mets. Also, DeRousse mentions that Pujols would have a much bigger legacy and impact on the game if he comes to the Cubs. I liken the Albert Pujols situation to the LeBron James frenzy that transpired over the summer. Meaning we will find out what motivates Pujols the most. If he is driven by his legacy and making the most money, then the Chicago Cubs probably will be the team to land him.
As for the cons of Pujols coming to the Cubs, DeRousse states the obvious and writes that it would be a devastating blow to the Cardinals. However, one interesting thing that was mentioned, is that Pujols considers Tony LaRussa to be one of his most trusted mentors. LaRussa has made it known that he is not fond of the Cubs, and that could keep Pujols from coming to the North Side. The story also suggests that Pujols would be subject to more scrutiny in Chicago. I do not think that would happen, because Cubs fans usually are loyal to players who put their best foot forward. Even with the media, if a player shows them respect they will show said player just as much respect in return.