Wednesday, January 12, 2011

An Update on the Pujols Negotiations

The annual Major League Baseball owners' meetings are being held in Phoenix this week.  Can you feel the excitement?  Yeah, you're not alone.  The Owners' meetings are essentially the anti-Winter Meetings.  All of that Hot Stove-y goodness that we experienced last month?  That well, for the most part, has run dry.  This week, it's just the owners.  Now that Big Stein has passed, a more boring group they could not be.  Get this...they are actually conducting...(wait for it)  BORING! 

Still, someone has to cover the meetings.  Over at Fox Sports, Jon Paul Morosi drew the short straw.  Hey, it could be worse.  The meetings could be in cold, snowy Minneapolis instead of warm, sunny Arizona.  Plus, when you cover these types of events, there's a good chance you'll stumble upon a hot scoop or two.  Luckily for us, that's precisely what happened. 

After bumping into Cardinals CEO Bill Dewitt in the hotel lobby, Morosi had a chance to talk shop about the Pujols negotiations for a few moments.  

“We’ve got time between now and then to get things done,” DeWitt said. “I’m hopeful. But these are big deals, and we’ll make every effort to get it accomplished.
“Spring training is a long period of time — six weeks. Whether it’s reporting date, or a week after, I don’t view it as, ‘If it’s not done by this day, then . . .’ I don’t see a specific day.”
“We’re not that far along yet, so I wouldn’t think so,” DeWitt said, of what would be a public-relations bonanza. “I never rule anything out, but we’re not targeting that time frame. We’re looking more toward spring training. A deal of this magnitude will take some time.”
Well, that settles it.  Dewitt is an expert in saying a lot without saying anything at all.  If this baseball thing doesn't work out for him, he should have no problem having long and prosperous career in politics. 

Dewitt's comment strike me as being a bit odd.  Earlier this offseason, Pujols indicated that he will not participate in contract negotiations once he reports to Spring Training on February 19th.  Based on Dewitt's nonchalant attitude towards Pujols' self imposed negotiation deadline, I have to imagine that he either knows Pujols is willing to negotiate up to Opening Day, or just doesn't care.  Considering how important Pujols is to the Cardinals franchise, I highly doubt it's the latter.  That only leads the former. 

The two sides engaged extensive discussions last winter before talks broke off in February prior to Pujols's self-imposed Spring Training deadline.  In December during the Winter Meetings, the negotiations reignited, and have ramped up considerably in recent weeks.  At this point in the process, I have to imagine both parties have exchanged contract figures at least once.  Otherwise, the negotiations would be a colossal waste of time.  Still, it's tough to know for sure with both parties keeping the negotiations so close to the vest.   Pujols has yet to take a pre-contract physical for insurance purposes, which indicates that a deal is not imminent. 

Pujols, a ten time All-Star, is eligible to become a free agent after the 2011 season.  He's expected to be looking for a seven to ten year contract with an average annual salary in the $25-30M range.  

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