By Dave Wischnowsky–
Imagine Superman signing on as the official spokesman for Kryptonite tights.
Then imagine Albert Pujols putting on Cubs pinstripes.
What’s less likely?
Jaded Chicagoans might consider seeing Kal-El donning green more fathomable than catching sight of Big Al in blue, but depending on the dollars, nothing – not in professional sports – is out of the question.
And that includes Albert Pujols in the home dugout at Wrigley Field.
Late Tuesday night, the Cubs announced that they had filled their hole at first base with free agent slugger Carlos Pena, but only for one year. That short-team deal quickly led to breathless speculation in parts of Chicago that the Cubs are eventually coming after Pujols, whose contract with St. Louis runs out this season.
So, are they?
Well, who knows right now. But, if Jim Hendry & Co. indeed do have Pujols in their sights, then the curious one-year pact given to Pena would certainly make a lot more sense.
Conversely, on Wednesday afternoon, one of my friends – a White Sox fan – found no sense at all in the notion of Pujols joining the Cubs. He asked on his Facebook page why anyone would think that the Cardinals’ living legend would want to relocate to the North Side of Chicago.
But I asked, why wouldn’t he? Simply because he’s a Cardinal? My guess is that Pujols, just like most professional athletes, likely loves money more than he loves his franchise – or hates a rival one.
(Michael Barrett, for example, didn’t punch A.J. Pierzynski four years ago because Pierzynski played for the White Sox. Barrett punched him because he’s A.J. Pierzynski.)
Now, Pujols’ heart very well might be in St. Louis, but I think he’d strongly consider a change of it if another team offered him considerably more cash to do so.
Even if that team is the Cubs.
On Tuesday, SI.com’s Jon Heyman reported that Pujols is seeking “A-Rod money” after 2011. It’s unclear if that means he wants a 10-year contract worth $275 million – the deal that Rodriguez inked in 2007 with the Yankees – or if it means he wants a similar annual salary.
Pujols turns 31 years old next month, so any team offering him a 10-year contract 12 months from now will be pushing its luck once Albert starts pushing 40. However, it’s been reported that the Cardinals likely will be willing to offer Pujols a seven-year deal with a $27.5 million annual salary. That comes out to a $192.5 million commitment.
Now, for the sake of argument, what if the Cubs countered with an eight-year offer worth $220 million (still a $27.5 million average)? Cardinals icon or not, do you think Pujols would just laugh and immediately turn that down?
I’m pretty sure that, at the very least, he’d think long and hard about it. And Pujols very well might bite. Don’t kid yourself, pros play to get paid, and when a contract is the last big one that a star will sign – as Pujols’ next one will be – he wants it to be as big as possible.
Lest you think the Cubs won’t have the cash to even consider such a proposal to Pujols, first consider this: With the Pena signing, the Cubs now have six players (Pena, Kosuke Fukudome, John Grabow, Aramis Ramirez, Carlos Silva and Jeff Samardzija) whose contracts – totaling $54,650,000 – can come off the books after 2011. The Cubs own a club option for Samardzija in ’12 and ’13, while Ramirez and Silva both have mutual options for 2012.
Jim Hendry will have a lot of money to play around with next December at the winter meetings in Dallas. And I’m not saying that Albert Pujols will be the one who decides to play with it. I’m just not willing to say he won’t be, either.
Stranger things have happened. And, with the Pena deal, you have to figure that Jim Hendry has to have some kind of plan in place. If, in fact, it is one that does manage to pry Pujols out of Missouri, then come next December crestfallen Cardinals fans might have to start referring to their team by a different nickname.
The St. Louis Blues.
If nothing else, Dave Wischnowsky is an Illinois boy. Raised in Bourbonnais, educated at the University of Illinois and bred on sports in the Land of Lincoln, he now resides on Chicago’s North Side, just blocks from Wrigley Field. Formerly a reporter and blogger for the Chicago Tribune, Dave currently writes a syndicated column, The Wisch List, which you can check out via his blog at http://www.wischlist.com.