Pujols Architectonic

Coming up with good reasons to resign (or extend) Albert Pujols is easy. At the moment, I can think of 407 good reasons, and counting. But in order to make a reasonable decision it is always a good idea to consider the contrary point of view. My overwhelming desire is for the Cardinals just to give the man his money, and let's play ball. However, what are the arguments against doing that?

I have not tried to do statistical analysis to support or disprove these arguments. All I've tried to do is state the major types of arguments that one could use to support letting Pujols become a free agent and leave after 2011. My point is not to prove or disprove their validity but just to get the relevant arguments on the table. Some excellent discussion, of course, has already happened along these lines.

So, what do you think? Are any of these obviously wrong or irrelevant? What are the major arguments I've left out? Which ones do you think are the most fruitful, and need to be looked at more closely?

1. We would have the bulk of our available position-player money invested in the two easiest defensive positions to fill. (Chase Utley/position scarcity argument)

Pujols demanded market value (or close) in his first big contract. Market value for him will probably be something north of Mark Teixeira's contract. I don't know of much evidence that Pujols will really sign for a lot less than he could get on the open market. Whatever the motive assigned, I seriously question any assessment of Pujols' future with the Cardinals that is predicated on a discount contract.

Good hitting 1B are often available. Trade for one or sign one to a reasonable deal and put the money into more premium positions. Good hitting middle-infielders are rare and expensive, but they benefit a lineup greatly--not just in terms of how they themselves perform but in who they keep out of the lineup.

There is no guarantee budget will increase with Pujols' new contract. If it does not, get used to the look of Albert and the Replacements. If it does, it may make the team financially unsound (too high of a percentage of total revenue put into player salaries). We have enjoyed the benefit of Pujols on the (relative) cheap for years but still felt a budget pinch when pursuing desirable free agents (= anyone other teams would also like to sign).

2. Pujols will be entering the downward slope region of the age/performance graph. (Tino Martinez argument)

It is only intelligent to sign a contract based on what a player is likely to be, not what a player has been. Teams that have sustained dynasties (Yankees and Red Socks are good examples) have shown the willingness to let star players leave when they have passed their prime. These two teams do have a payroll that allows them to replace said players. However, they have only proven to be successful teams when maximizing their (admittedly large) payrolls. We will have to give Pujols a contract that will likely be debilitating to the team for its final 2-3 years because of likely decreases in performance.

3. Pujols has some worrying injuries (elbow, back, foot), increasing the risk of the huge, long contract he will require. (Ralph Sampson argument)

Baseball contracts are in guaranteed money, and please see point #1 for the amount of money Pujols' new contract will have to guarantee. Getting insurance is difficult for such a contract. Collecting it is even more difficult should something go wrong (see the Jeff Bagwell situation). Carrying Pujols' new contract as dead weight is not something a mid-market team can overcome. That is a lot of risk going into one player.

4. In the years that LaRussa continues to manage the Cardinals, it will remain doubtful that Lunhow-selected players from our farm system will be embraced as core contributors to the team. (TLR=Italian for "Stubborn as a Mule" argument)

But this is precisely the strategy that will be necessary to sustain carrying both of Pujols' and Holiday's contracts. Money will not likely be available to take on salary in a trade or to acquire veteran talent in free agency. The combination of LaRussa and Mozeilak has shown disastrous results in acquiring cheap veteran position players. Pujols' recent public siding with LaRussa in the Rasmus/LaRussa debacle seems to reinforce the opinion that LaRussa is his preferred manager.

5. Pujols would bring good return if traded this off-season. (Hershel Walker argument)

In mid-July 2010, Dave Cameron listed him at #22 on the 2010 Trade Value list. Pujols was the only player on a short-term contract to be on the list. I doubt that having 1 year vs. 1 ½ year would completely drop him off the list. A team like the Angels or Red Sox might value the chance to negotiate a contract extension as part of the trade, keeping them from having to go head-to-head in a bidding war with the Yankees. That might significantly increase the value of the trade.