When the St Louis Cardinals decided to table all contract negotiations with Albert Pujols until the off-season, many thought they were at risk of losing the multiple MVP award winner to free agency. Now, the Cardinal are sitting in a good position when it comes to re-signing their superstar this winter. Granted Pujols will miss the next 4-6 weeks (closer to 6 weeks) and effects the Cardinals chances of winning the division, in the end, this injury could be what keeps Pujols in St Louis.
I have always thought that Pujols will eventually re-sign with the Cardinals, and the injury only confirms that belief of mine. The injury will likely have a significant impact on contract negotiations. For one, Pujols and his representatives can scratch the idea that they will be able to land a 10 year, $300 million contract. Despite the track record that Pujols has, I find it hard to believe that the Cardinals will shell out $300 million to player that is coming off a season where he broke his wrist. But it still is Pujols that we are talking about, so, a contract of $250MM should be in his future.
The other concern with Pujols will be injuries. This would not be a concern if Pujols had not broken his wrist, but, the fact remains that he did. One comparison–albeit an unfair one–is when Derrek Lee broke his wrist during the 2006 season. Lee was coming off a season where he put up “triple-crown” like numbers, and many thought he was on the verge of becoming one of the games best offensive players. Then Lee broke his wrist early in the 2006 season. After returning from the wrist injury, Lee never enjoyed the success he had before the injury. In fact, Lee admitted that it took multiple seasons for his wrist to completely heal. If Lee’s injury is any indicator, that means there is a chance that it could take Pujols multiple seasons for his wrist to reach 100% again.
For that reason, I find it hard to believe that the Cubs will commit $250 million to a player that has an injury concern, regardless of whether it is Pujols or not. Though, this also will impact the Cubs pursuit of Prince Fielder. With Pujols’ price going down because of the injury, Fielder’s price just went up because of that fact. Fielder will likely command interest from a lot of teams with deep pockets, meaning the Cubs may end up with neither Pujols nor Fielder. A couple more seasons of Carlos Pena at first base, may be in the Cubs future.