It appears the St. Louis Cardinals’ Albert Pujols will become a free agent after this baseball season, which almost certainly means we are on the verge of seeing a new record contract in baseball, as well as the next magazine cover: “Albert Inc. and the Lesser 499 of the Fortune 500.”
The other day, I threw out “a guy can dream” joke about the Braves making a bid for Pujols. Should’ve known but about a dozen folks sent me emails (and other notes on Facebook or Twitter) asking if I really th0ught that would or could happen. The short answer: no.
Pujols obviously is a great player, and first base has been a black hole for the Braves since I think Joe Adcock left. (Kids: Google). The latest hope is that prospect Freddie Freeman turns into the next great thing. If that happens, the organization is set at first for a while.
But this is Albert Pujols, the best player in the game. There aren’t that many players who immediately can turn a team into a contender. He’s one of them. Imagine the Braves’ infield of the future: Pujols at first, Dan Uggla at second, anybody at short and Martin Prado at third. Add Brian McCann and Jason Heyward and you’ve got as good a lineup as this city has seen in a while.
But the issue is money. Here’s how it breaks down.
First, the good news:
– Kenshin Kawakami ($7.3 million) and Nate McLouth ($6.5 million) come off the books following this season. That’s $13.8 million right there.
Now, the rest of the news:
– Derek Lowe, the team’s highest paid player at $15 million per season. will be entering the final year of his contract in 2012. Conceivably, the team could suck it up for a year and blow the budget out. But that’s not likely to happen. Lowe would be more trade-able in the final year of his contract but finding a team to take on a $15 million player, even a solid starting pitcher, still isn’t easy.
– Chipper Jones could be done this year. Or he may not be going anywhere. His contract calls for $13 million this season, $13 million in 2012 and a club option at probably $7 million to $10 million in 2013.
– The Braves already have made a long-term commitment to Uggla ($62 million for five years) are paying Tim Hudson ($9 million) and Brian McCann ($8.667 million) through 2012. On top of that, they have to prepare for the future major paydays of Heyward and Tommy Hanson. (We’ll leave Jair Jurrjens out of this discussion for now.)
Here’s the unfortunate truth: The Braves stick to a budget (even if we never really know what that budget is). They will commit major dollars to a limited number of players. To go after a guy like Pujols — who already has rejected an eight-year contract at $25 million per season and may be seeking $30 million annually — would necessitate blowing up the rest of the roster.
Do I think the Braves would do that? No. Do I think Liberty Media would suddenly take the clamps off the budget? No. But feel free to dream.
Thoughts? Should the Braves go after Pujols at all costs?
By Jeff Schultz