Pujols: "It's not about the money all the time"

Before the 2009 season, Pujols was quoted by Jon Heyman in SI

"I'm not going to lie to you: It's not about the money all the time," Pujols said when he got to spring training. "It's about being in a place to win and being in a position to win. If the Cardinals are willing to do that and put a team together every year like they have, I'm going to try to work everything out to stay in this town."

At the time, the Cardinals had failed to qualify for the playoffs in 2 consecutive seasons. Since then, there's no disputing that the Cardinals organization - through trades, free-agent signings, and long-term commitment to player development - have put Albert Pujols in a position to win. Given present ownership's track record of retaining top tier players (McGwire, Edmonds, Rolen, Pujols, Carpenter, Holliday) at high, but not idiotic salaries, and Albert's own willingness to 'work everything out to stay in this town', there is little reason to think he'd leave.

The question remains: Why isn't it done?

Hypothesis #1: Pujols is/was being disingenuous, always intended to run to the highest bidder

Certainly a possibility, though not a topic I'm going to spend much time contemplating.

Hypothesis #2: Pujols feels differently at (nearly) 32* than he did at 29

Ask anyone in their late 20s any number of philosophical questions...then check back 3 years later and it's unlikely that you'll get the same answers. Priorities change. Perspectives change. People change.

That being said, Pujols was not your typical 29-year-old when he gave that answer. The mang has always been mature beyond his years** by ballplayer - even non-ballplayer standards. He was married and raising a special needs child before most of us had even heard of him. What could have happened in the last 3 years that might have drastically changed Pujols outlook? Wait, don't answer that.

*if you take him at his word

**I'm not implying that he's lying about his age

Hypothesis #3: Pujols is trying to help his friend and longtime agent by letting him play hardball

I don't know much about Dan Lozano, other than he and Pujols go way back, he set up his own shop not too long ago, and he currently counts Alex Rodriguez amongst his clients. If Lozano botches this Pujols deal, the Lozano brand might be permanently damaged. Since by all accounts Pujols has complete faith in Lozano, it's not a stretch to assume he's letting Lozano dictate the strategy on this deal (i.e. don't engage with the media about it, play hardball with ownership).

I've long been a subscriber of hypothesis #3 as explanation why negotiations have gone the way they have. There is however more than one way Lozano could botch this deal. Obviously if Pujols signs for what's widely perceived as a 'below market' deal, then Lozano looks bad. Additionally, if Pujols market value turns out to be less than what was offered last spring (200M/9?), Lozano looks really bad. Thirdly, if Pujols really intended to stay all along, but the Cardinals - burned by Lozano's hardball tactics - decide it's in their best long-term interests to let some other team overpay for Pujols' decline phase, then it's conceivable Pujols would fire Lozano and approach the Cardinals to negotiate his own deal.

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