St. Louis – As news spread Monday of Phillies slugger Ryan Howard’s five-year, $125 million contract extension, one question kept popping up at Busch Stadium.
How much could Albert Pujols’ next deal be worth?
“$50 million a year – at least,” said Braves manager Bobby Cox, and it wasn’t clear whether he was being facetious or really meant it.
Pujols is in the final season of a seven-year, $110 million contract, but the Cardinals have a $16 million option for 2011. He’d be a free agent after that, unless they sign him to a new deal first.
“I’m sure the Cardinals will do everything they possibly can,” Cox said. “He’s the best ballplayer in all of baseball. He does everything, too. He’s great defensively, he runs the bases great, he’s smart, and he’s the best hitter there is.”
“I don’t know how you [put a price tag on it, compared to other players]. He’s the best, let’s put it that way.”
Howard’s mammoth new contract kicks in with the 2012 season, after his current deal runs out. The Phillies slugger has put up arguably more impressive numbers against the Braves — .337 average, 32 homers, 89 RBIs in 87 games — than even Barry Bonds or Pujols, and now Howard is signed through the 2016 season.
“The Phillies have shown that they’re going to tie up their core guys as long as possible,” Braves third baseman Chipper Jones said. “They’re willing to spend a lot of money as far as a yearly salary.”
What does Jones think Pujols could command, considering Howard’s new contract figures?
“Judging by what Howard has done, winning the MVP, hitting 40 [homers] and leading the league in RBIs every year, Albert’s got a couple more MVPs, a batting title, and put up all the same numbers that Howard has, maybe a little better, I’d say that Albert is going to get a little more than that [$25 million a year figure].”