While most baseball executives, media types, bloggers, and insiders think it's a foregone conclusion that Pujols hits free agency next winter, at least one GM thinks the Cardinals will re-sign by Pujols's self-imposed February 16th deadline. In Nick Carfardo's Sunday morning column (this should be required reading for all baseball fans), he caught up with a "General Manager from a larger market" who has very little doubt that the two sides will eventually reach an agreement.
“They should stick to a number that makes sense for them, and if it’s not good enough, then you walk away,’’ said a general manager in a larger market. “He may be the brand in St. Louis, but you have to do what’s best for your organization.
“Think of what you could do with that money. Will you ever find a Pujols? No. But you can find 50 percent of him and use the other 50 percent to enhance your team in other areas.
I agree. This is basically what I've been arguing all along. The Cardinals have been trying to position themselves as a small market club in the Pujols negotiations, and it's not really a fair comparison. According to Forbes magazine's most recent appraisal of baseball clubs (April 2010), the Cardinals were named the eighth most valuable franchise (and ninth in terms of revenue) in the game, sandwiched between the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the San Francisco Giants. With a revenue stream of a mid-to-high end franchise, they certainly have the ability to construct a larger payroll without putting themselves at risk of financial insolvency. They just choose not to, which is their right. Still, I can't help but wonder if they've considered the potential loss in revenue (attendance, merchandising, concessions, TV ratings, etc.) that would result from Pujols's departure. That should play a key role in determining whether or not to increase their offer to Pujols down the line.“What will happen is, they’ll get it done. The Cardinals aren’t a small-market team, so they’re in that area where they probably have to do it because not doing it would create chaos and possible loss of revenue. But once in a while, you do something bold and think outside the box.’’
I honestly believe that the two sides will eventually get something done. The Cardinals front office has been playing it perfectly when it comes to staying true to the confidentiality agreement regarding the Pujols negotiations. While there have been some reports, albeit somewhat vague, that have been played out in the media, it hasn't turned into the three ring circus in which the Derek Jeter negotiations evolved. As a result, we don't know how big of a gap there is between the two parties. Pujols is thought to be looking for an A-Rod type deal (10/$275M), while the Cardinals are believed to not be interested in extending Pujols beyond six or seven years. There's been no word on the average annual salary the Cardinals are willing to give Pujols.
Ultimately, both sides will need to make concessions in terms of salary and the length of the contract in order to get a deal done. With only a few days remaining before Pujols arrives in camp, the likelihood of an agreement is pretty grim.