Cardinals undersold Pujols with offer

February, 16, 2011
2/16/11
4:50
PM ET
Although the Albert Pujols negotiations have weighed heavily on our minds for much of the past week -- and probably longer for Cardinals fans -- it was impossible to analyze them because we just didn't know what was going on behind closed doors. Well, thanks to Ken Rosenthal's reports and ESPN's Karl Ravech, it looks like we know why a deal didn't get done. Rosenthal tweets that, according to a source, the Cardinals offer would only give Pujols the 10th highest salary in the game, somewhere around $19-21 million dollars per season.

[+] EnlargeAlbert Pujols
Greg Fiume/Getty ImagesSt. Louis was reportedly offering Albert Pujols around $20 million a season.
The Cardinals had to know there was no chance that Albert would sign that offer. People are asking questions like “Is Albert Pujols Worth $40 Million Per Season?” and “Is Albert Pujols Worth 300 Million?", not whether he would sign for $20 million per year. Looking at some hard numbers, Gas House Graphs, an excellent Cardinals blog, comes up with a 10-year value for Albert at $260 million with some help from saberist wonder Tom Tango.

Using Rosenthal's numbers, we get a contract offer from the Cardinals of eight years and $168 million, nine years and $189 million, or 10 years and $210 million. By the Gas House Graphs numbers, the Cardinals are underselling Pujols by some $50 million even if they actually went out to 10 years, a length which the Cardinals seemed reluctant to offer.

It's certainly understandable that the Cardinals haven't come out and offered Pujols the fabled $300 million contract or some other such big deal. Although Pujols’ on-field value is currently untouched by any other player, that doesn't mean the Cardinals should simply empty the coffers in front of Pujols. After all, this is a business.

However, it's obvious that the team is in better shape with Albert on the team. The only way that they remain contenders, at least in the short-term, is with Albert on the team. The newly-released PECOTA projections have Albert worth 7.7 WARP -- wins above replacement player. The next best position player? Ryan Braun, at 4.9 WARP. Pujols so outclasses the rest of his position player colleagues that he is nearly three full wins over No. 2.

The Cardinals had a huge asset in their exclusivity to negotiate with Pujols. They could have been able to reach a deal with the superstar for under his market value, and any contract with Pujols will almost certainly offer huge surpluses in the first few years of the deal. The offer that they made, however, had no chance of ever being accepted, and I find it hard to believe that Cardinals management didn't know that fact themselves.

It's not over for St. Louis, though. They'll get another chance, even if it has to wait until after the season, assuming that the deadline set by Pujols actually means anything. If they want to get anything done with their superstar on the second go-round, they'll need to actually acknowledge his value. The Cardinals found out that their reportedly discounted offers just aren't going to fly. We'll see in about eight months if the Cardinals will open up the checkbook and pay Pujols what he's worth.

Jack Moore writes the Disciples of Uecker blog.

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