According to ESPN The Magazine’s Buster Olney, St. Louis Cardinals’ first baseman Albert Pujols has set a deadline for his contract extension. The sluggers agent has informed the club that negotiations will be cut off when Pujols reports to spring training. According to ESPN, Pujols will then opt to test the free agent market following the 2011 season. Cardinals CEO Bill DeWitt Jr. said earlier this week that talks are “not that far along yet.” Pujols is one of those players that could be up their as one of the greatest players to play professional baseball at the primed age of 30. The clock is ticking St. Louis, you have just little over a month to keep this guy for the long haul as position players report on February 18th for Spring Training.
Can anyone imagine Albert Pujols hitting the free agent market? Players of his caliber just don’t hit free agency, mostly because there hasn’t been a player this good since free agency was implementing in the MLB. This would be unprecedented in baseball. Luckily we have some insight into such an offseason as we come off the heals of “The Decision”. LeBron James is to his game as Pujols is to baseball, two players that will be in the conversation of greatest of all time when their careers are over. LeBron-mania was the most exciting free agency periods, possibly in all of sports. We could even get back in the realm of baseball and look at how publicized the courting of FA southpaw Cliff Lee was this very off-season. During the Lee sweepstakes, people read about the smallest implications on the front of the sports section every day. If Pujols hits the market, you can expect to read about the color shirt he wore that day on the front page of the New York Times because if its Red, he might just go to Cincinnati. Things would be just that crazy, and the money that would be thrown around would make Bill Gates cringe. Nearly every team in the majors will be after this man. I could easily see the Yankees telling A-rod to pack his bags and Texiera to go learn to play 3rd so Pujols can come in and win the pin stripes more championships. It would be easier to name who wouldn’t want Pujols should he hit the market. The Boston Red Sox just acquired Adrian Gonzalez and signed Carl Crawford with Youkalis moving back to third base, it hard to imagine them spending even more money next off-season on just one player. The only other team I can’t imagine going after Pujols is the Philadelphia Phillies, and even then you could see a mid-season trade of Ryan Howard for Pujols so that both teams could extend the players with minimal loss.
It would be one of the most exciting times in baseball free agency history, and the mere prospect of it makes me giddy. A betting man would put his money on Pujols signing an extension in St. Louis, because any team would be foolish to not pay absolutely whatever this man is asking for. We shall see….