Wisch: The Cubs Can Cripple The Cards, Without Signing Pujols

By Dave Wischnowsky–

So, Albertageddon is upon us.

Or upon St. Louis, at least.

And with Albert Pujols’ contract deadline having now passed with no $300 million deal in sight, I imagine that right now down in the Gateway City the Arch is probably sagging, the beer’s gone stale and Laclede’s Landing has broken off into the Mississippi River.

Which no doubt is now flowing upstream.

“We are greatly disappointed at this outcome,” Cardinals chairman William DeWitt Jr. said this morning at a news conference after Pujols’ 11 a.m. springing training deadline had expired. “We will revisit it again following the 2011 season, at which time we will again make every effort to keep him as a Cardinal.”

Smart money – for the time being, at least – probably still has Pujols eventually re-upping with the Cardinals, even if he does reach free agency. But if you’re Tom Ricketts, your job this offseason is to make sure that, at the very least, the Cardinals spend dumb money to get him.

While luring Pujols to Chicago’s North Side would be the ultimate payback for Brock-for-Broglio and thrill the Wrigleyville masses, the truth is that the Cubs don’t need to steal Albert Pujols away from St. Louis in order to cripple the Cardinals for the future.

They merely need to make a serious – and seriously expensive – run at him.

Because, what Cardinals fans should be most fearful of this offseason – even more than seeing their beloved No. 5 don blue pinstripes – is the Cubs driving the asking price for Pujols so high that by signing him the Cardinals won’t be able to field a competitive team around their first baseman for a decade.

St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said Tuesday that he believes Pujols is feeling pressure from the MLB players union to “set the bar” with this contract and exceed the record-setting $275 million, 10-year deal that Alex Rodriguez inked with the New York Yankees. I don’t doubt that he is.

No one thinks that giving Pujols a 10-year, $300 million deal that will still be paying him $30 million when he’s 41 years old, is a particularly smart idea. But, once King Albert reaches the open market it could take a king’s ransom to reel him in – especially if the Cubs push the paycheck envelope into the stratosphere.

Currently, St. Louis has about a $104 million payroll with Pujols making $16 million. That accounts for 15.3 percent of the total team salary. For the sake of argument, let’s say the Cards, pressured by the Cubs’ overtures, sign Pujols to a $30 million-per-year contract this offseason – nearly doubling his salary – and actually bump their payroll accordingly up to $119 million. Pujols would then be pulling down 25.2 percent of the team’s total salary.

If the Cardinals, however, sign him to that kind of deal and then pare their payroll back down to $104 million, Pujols would gobble up a whopping 28.8 percent of the team’s total cash.

Keep in mind that the Cardinals also have Matt Holliday signed at $17 million per year through 2016, meaning they could have $47 million – nearly half their payroll – locked up long-term in just two players, both of whom are in their 30s.

And when you consider that Chris Carpenter’s contract expires after 2012 and Adam Wainright’s after 2013, things start looking awfully dicey, awfully quickly for the future of St. Louis baseball and its financial situation.

The Cubs, on the other hand, have a current $130 million payroll that, in theory, could go considerably higher (it was $144 million in 2010). That means, of course, that the Cubs could more easily accommodate the kind of monster contract that Pujols is reportedly seeking – and still have the flexibility to put a number of other well-paid players around him.

And maybe even some good ones, too.

But, to land a haymaker to the future of the St. Louis Cardinals, the Cubs really don’t even need to sign Albert Pujols.

They simply need to try to.

Do you agree with Dave? Post your comments below.

davewisch Wisch: The Cubs Can Cripple The Cards, Without Signing Pujols

Dave Wischnowsky

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.

  • Larry Horse's Arse

    Oooh…very smart blog, Dave……raise the frickin’ bar, no home-town discount.
    I think the Angels, maybe the Orioles or even Toronto would have the most cash and interest to take a run at AP.

  • Larry Horse's Arse

    Booyah’s Jim Caple said that Hendry won’t want to pay $300M for a 10 year K that will end with the player at age 41…so Caple said Hendry will offer a 5-year K at $300M.


    • Dave Wischnowsky

      Hahaha. Now, that’s good. :)

    • drmagoo

      I actually think it makes more sense to do that, although I’d rather see $280/7. It’s still way overpaying, but at least he’s off your books when he will be way too old.

  • Allen

    Hey how’s LeBron working out for the Bulls??? Typical speculation and window shopping from the 2nd sports market int he country. Keep that wish list because the cubs will not sign him. I also think you are missing the tickets prices in St Louis. If I am correct they have lots of room to raise the prices without fear of driving fans away. And to keep AP by doing so would not upset anyone or bring down attendance. And the best part is, Cubs fans will pine all season waiting for the shoe to drop, but the only thing that will drop on them is disappointment. So in turn, AP will cripple the Cubs all season long and shortly after they don’t sign him in 2011.

  • Lenny

    Didn’t A-Rod ink the deal with the Rangers and then got traded to the Yanks?

    • Larry Horse's Arse

      Yup, and the Rangers had to subsidize a great amount of his salary with the Yankees while still under that contract.

  • G Phillips

    I agree with the 5yr/$300M. But only as a complete compensation package. Offer 5yr/$200M plus 100M in performance based incentives, ie. All-star, all-star MVP, home run leader, NLCS MVP, WORLD SERIES MVP! That’s still $40M/yr, guaranteed. Sounds like a heck of a paycheck to me!

  • Larry Horse's Arse

    The info that keeps leaking (so I’m not sure if it is true or not) is that the Cards offered 8 years/$200M. You would think that could/should be the basis for a deal, with some additional $ for incentives, goals etc. to close the deal.
    I have seen some reports, such as Darren Revel (sp.?) of CNBC who thinks that the max. economic return AP could give a club is capped at about 200/8.
    I think the 10/300 number is nuts.

    But to go with Dave’s thesis, if the Cubbies can force the Cards to pay even more by pretending to be in the auction, so be it.

    Dave, I “wisch” your piece had run in the morning because the response you are getting to your blog is far less than this topic deserves.

  • Larry Horse's Arse

    As a starting point for discussion, the Cardinals have totally, totally effed this up by letting things get to this point.

    Also, please re-read Dave’s lede……superb writing…the line about the Mighty Mississippi flowing upstream was LOL excellent.

  • Dave Wischnowsky

    Thank you, sir. And I completely agree, the Cardinals should not have let it get to this point. Before they worked out Matt Holliday’s contract a year ago, they should have first gotten Pujols’ contract extended. They’re going to pay the price now — either literally with dollars, or with Albert heading elsewhere. Total nightmare for St. Lou.

  • Jake from Da Burbs

    Dave… have you blocked me from writing a comment on your blog? The last two times now… I have clicked submit only for my comments not to show up… very very frustrating…

    • Jake from Da Burbs

      OK… so i’m not blaming you per se but i’m just saying… i’m having difficulty posting and it seems to only be for your blogs..

  • Jake from Da Burbs

    Ok so only some of my comments come over… weird…

  • Jake from Da Burbs

    Here’s my basic thought.

    Cubs dont even really need to get involved. Even with no pressure from any outside club, Pujols will get at least 25M per year for at least 5 years. At the very least. If Albert wants to be paid the most annually, a deal would then pay him over 28.5M and if he also desires the biggest pact ever, it would take him to the 10 year mark. All of that is devastating for the Cardinals and there’s not even another suitor involved.

    The Cardinals are head to head on this with Pujols himself and not any other team. Then again, I think part of the reason they’re ok with letting this go to the end of the season is so that they could tell Albert… go get the best contract you can get in the market and we’ll beat that. Cardinals are not looking to make history and I guess here is where Dave, the Cubs could drive up the price. But I think even if the Cubs or Angels or no other suitor was available, I dont think Albert signs for anything less than 25M for 7-8years which makes the Cardinal payroll situation murky.

  • Larry Horse's Arse

    Jake, I sometimes get cut-off by the CBS website page-refresh feature.
    If I takew too long writing a post, it won’t post.
    That’s why I often write very short (one or two lines) posts.

    No way is Dave cutting you off….your posts are uniformly intelligent, insightful and helpful. Dave is running his blog as a forum for intelligent discussion (and LOL humor too)…so you fit right in.

    • Jake from Da Burbs

      Yeah… I’ve tried… I really have tried… but I’m not a 2-3 line response poster I usually just start to write my general thoughts about a post and it ends up being like 4-5 paragraphs and a mini-novel…

      I think its time to start my own blog. Is WSCR hiring?

      • Larry Horse's Arse

        TOTALLY agree with you as to the message board.
        You are 100% right on target.
        But I think that is a CBS decision.
        I have noticed the same website format for all the CBS sports stations around the country, and none of them have message boards. Alas and alack.

      • Jake from Da Burbs

        Actually speaking, 670thescore.com is BEGGING for a sports messageboards to be added to the site. I would highly suggest developing a messageboards for the Cubs, Bears, Bulls, Sox and for each of the major shows on the Score. It would easily get you more posters, more visitors to the site and can make more off of advertising.

        And give Larry and I our own blog or our own live chats or something…

  • Dave Wischnowsky

    Jake, it definitely has nothing to do with me. I don’t have any control over comments on here. Wouldn’t block ya even if I could, though :)

  • Larry Horse's Arse

    I just have a hard time with an NL club going 10 years for a 31 year old guy, even if he plays 1B. At least in the AL he could move into a DH role.

    • Dave Wischnowsky

      If he signs a 10-year deal, Pujols will be an albatross by the time he’s 41, There’s just no way around that. It’s a fact. Perhaps the two guys in all of sports that I’d sign to a 10-year deal are Kevin Durant and Derrick Rose. I think my list would end there.

      • Larry Horse's Arse

        Your analysis is right on the money, Jake.

        David Stern was smart enough to get the 6/5 year caps on contracts to save the owners from themselves. In the NBA, with the hard cap, you really can’t look at bad, long paper as a sunk cost (OK technically it still is) because it would cripple a team for soooo many years. Can you imagine a Soriano deal in the NBA? That franchise would be in basketball hell for a decade.

      • Jake from Da Burbs

        Signing Pujols to a 10 year deal is not necessarily a bad thing. The problem would be paying him 30M+ at age 41. However, if you would front load the deal and pay Pujols maybe 40M in the first 2-3 years and have it trickle down to 15-20M or so at age 40-41, then it becomes a more palatable deal even though it becomes more difficult to field a contending team.

        I would disagree on giving DRose a 10 year deal. I know he’s 22 but you can already see some wear and tear on his body. He’s already stated that he’s lost some vertical and speed from his high school days. Simply put, Rose’s fearlessness and lack of height subject him to a higher probability of dropping off even as early as his late 20’s. Rose’s greatest strength is his strength/body control but what makes him unguardable is his speed and quickeness. Thats the part that will go after a few years. Not saying that Rose is not worth it but I’d think about him.

        Totally agree about Kevin Durant though.

      • Larry Horse's Arse

        I’d also go a decade with Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Bernsteins.

  • Larry Horse's Arse

    Even though I have done labor relations professionally for 30 years, I am not an NBA cba maven. Nevertheless, I think the max contract under the cba is 6 years for Bird-exception players and 5 years for all others.

  • Larry Horse's Arse

    In baseball, a 10 year deal is so precarious.
    No way with a Pitcher, any Pitcher.
    Joe Mauer? Tough to go 10 with a Catcher.
    One guy I would have done it with based on age/ability was Miguel Cabrera.
    He is only 27…but he really has his Demons!!!
    When he was a kid up with the Marlins, it looked for sure that he would eat himself out of baseball faster than Prince Fielder. Then seemingly he switched to booze. Now word comes out of Florida that he was just busted for DUI.
    Sad. The Tigers better invest whatever time/effort it takes to make sure he doesn’t become the next Daryl Strawberry…ya know, on the way to Cooperstown for sure until he got thirsty or wanted to get high.

    • Dave Wischnowsky

      Cabrera really is a sad story — right now, at least. When I watched him destroy the Cubs in the 2003 NLCS as a 20-year-old, I thought he was one of the best young hitters I’ve ever seen. He’s still an incredible talent and he’s still only 27, so here’s to hoping he can get the help he needs and get his career and, most importantly, his life straightened out.

      As for 10-year deals in baseball, they really aren’t a good idea for anyone. I mean, look at how much of an albatross Soriano’s contract is and it’s an 8-year pact. In the (supposed) post-steroid era, nobody is going to be getting better as they get older any longer.

      • Dave Wischnowsky

        It does depend on the individual, but even with the best players, it’s still so difficult to project anything 10 years out. All of that said, though, it very well might take a 10-year contract to sign Pujols.

        I’d be more willing to pay him more money to him just in order to get less years on the deal, though. Really, I think anything beyond seven is asking for trouble. But I bet he gets a deal that’s longer than 7 years. And I don’t really blame Pujols for milking this deal for all it’s worth. He’s been “underpaid” his entire career — based on his production in comparison to other players — and this is most likely his last chance to sign a monster contract. So, I understand where he’s coming from and why he wants to get as much as he can for as long as he can.

        The long-term deal for that much money is a major gamble, though, no matter how great the guy is.

      • Jake from Da Burbs

        Anything Hendry does cannot be pointed out as an example of sane or logical baseball operations. Yes, 10 year contracts are a bad idea but it just depends from player to player.

        For example, if Starlin Castro, busts out in a Hanley Ramirez kind of way in the next 2 years, I think you can consider Castro for a 10 year deal. He’s only 20-21. Then again, his agent would probably not want to sign that long so that he could potentially get 2 huge contracts during his baseball career.

  • Jake from Da Burbs

    Yeah I agree. If I was a GM, I’d go by the rule of:

    No more than 3 years for a reliever, no more than 5 years for a starting pitcher and no more than 7 years for a position player.

    I do agree that this is Pujols last chance at big money and he has every right to get paid. If I were the Cardinals, I’d give Pujols what he wants but with some stipulations. I’d give him a 7 year deal and based only on games played during seasons 6 and 7, it would become a 10 year deal if he’s healthy. I’d probably also look to front load the deal starting at 35M and trickling downward and also have some money deferred. Probably have to give him a no trade clause and a position within the organization after his career is over. So, total package would probably be 10 year 300M which would appease Pujols but to protect from health concerns, if he’s not healthy, it could turn into a 7 year 210M.

    • Dave Wischnowsky

      Those all sound like very sage ideas to me, Jake. It’ll be interesting to see if the Cardinals are as clever with their next offer to Pujols as you are with this one.

      Still, though, as I wrote in this blog, the fact that it’s gotten to this point, now allows all these outside factors — i.e., other teams — to impact the situation. And some team, perhaps the Cubs perhaps someone else, most likely is going to throw a major wrench into the Cardinals’ plans and spark a bidding war.

  • Larry Horse's Arse

    Makes a lot of sense…7 years for AP but with annual club options that he can vest if he hits games played/performance targets in year 7, 8, and then 9.

    I like your 3/5/7 rules of thumb for K lengths depending on position.

blog comments powered by Disqus
Daily Weather Reports Delivered To You!SIGN UP NOW: Get daily weather reports every morning from meteorologist Steve Baskerville!
CBS Sports Radio RoundupGet your latest sports talk from across the country.

Listen Live