Albert Pujols ditched the media after the Cardinals were swept by the Dodgers last Saturday and then never spoke on Sunday when players cleaned out their lockers, despite the club asking Pujols to do so. However, in an interview with a radio station in the Dominican Republic, he talked about several topics including the ongoing saga of the Cardinals wanting a contract extension.
One of the Cardinals top priorities for this off season is to get an extension finalized. Pujols’ current contract wraps up in 2011. That is something that GM John Mozeliak would like to get taken care immediately. Pujols said he is quote “not desperate” to work on a contract extension, saying money isn’t everything and he’ll leave it in the “hands of God.”
If I’m Mozeliak’s right hand man, I tell him that’s fine. Let Pujols’ contract play out. I’m in no rush to sign Pujols to an extension and I’ll tell you why.
First, you have to detach yourself from what Albert has done. You have to look into the future. Pujols is going to be three and a half months away from 32 by the time his current contract runs out. There will obviously be something left in the tank by that time, but how much? I can’t give you an answer on October 16th of 2009, but I think I could give a better guess on October 16th of 2011. My first concern will be his elbow. Pujols had surgery to clean some of the junk out of his elbow last off season and he’ll get it looked at again this off-season. Not sure if surgery will be needed again this winter. However, at some point I would believe his elbow may need major surgery and how long would that keep him out? Does he need the surgery in the next two years? Maybe not. Sign him long term and what happens if he needs the surgery and the Cardinals miss one of his few prime years remaining. In my mind, I’m convinced his elbow affected his home run drought from September 9th through the playoffs. I don’t buy Tony LaRussa’s assessment that teams pitched him different. What? You mean to tell me all of the sudden NL pitchers figured out a way to keep Albert from hitting the ball deep?
The second concern I have is the length of the contract itself. How long are we talking? Paying Albert until he’s 38, 39, 40? Look, Albert is the best player in baseball, and will be when he’s 32 and most likely when he’s 34, but he’s not going to be the same player he is now at 30 when he is 36, 37 or 38. The Cardinals are looking at the signing a long term deal to a player that in five years may be best suited as a DH in the American League.
Or, in two years, we may find out Pujols is still wrecking National League pitching, is showing no signs of slowing down and hasn’t been hampered with elbow issues. Then at that time, if, as an organization, you have confidence that the team you have assembled is built for a winner, you’ll get off cheaper than what other teams will be offering Pujols, because you would have proved to him that he has the players around him to continue to be competitive.