Alternate Reality: What Would The Cardinals Look Like If They Had Signed Pujols?
I’ve heard a lot of theories and bellyaching in the wake of Yadier Molina‘s supposedly “expensive” new deal with the Cardinals. The one constant point I’ve heard mentioned repeatedly is this: the Cardinals wouldn’t have been able to keep Molina if they had signed Albert Pujols to a contract close to the one he accepted with Anaheim.
I’m not sure it’s really an “either/or” situation. So I wanted to play an alternate reality game in which we imagine what moves the Cardinals might have made in the wake of signing Pujols to a deal like the one he received in Anaheim.
Let’s go back and make some changes to the stream of time:
First of all, the moves made prior to the Pujols deal have happened. We do not have Arthur Rhodes, Octavio Dotel, Nick Punto, Ryan Theriot, or Gerald Laird. Pujols and Skip Schumaker are not signed and not included in 2012. None of the arbitrations have occurred yet. Adam Wainwright receives a raise in 2012 to $9MM. It also includes Molina’s $7MM option.
PROJECTED 2012 BUDGET AT THIS POINT: $88.5MM
December 8, 2011: The Angels are making a strong move to woo Albert Pujols, but the Cardinals make the winning offer – $240MM over ten years plus a 10 year services contract for another $14MM. A total of $254MM over 20 years.
December 9, 2011: The details of the contract come out at the press conference. Rather than pay Pujols in a stratified way as the Angels wanted ($12MM the first year, $16MM the second, and up from there), the Cardinals will be paying Pujols an even $24MM every year. That represents a raise of $8MM annually.
PROJECTED 2012 BUDGET AT THIS POINT: $112.5MM
December 10, 2011: The Cardinals pull back on their offer of $4MM AAV to Rafael Furcal, who wrongly feels that he deserves more than that. John Mozeliak announces that Tyler Greene will be the starting shortstop.
December 13, 2011: The Cardinals sign Skip Schumaker as a super utility for $3MM over two years.
PROJECTED 2012 BUDGET AT THIS POINT: $114MM
December 15, 2011: The Cardinals sign lefty J.C. Romero for $750,000, with another $750,000 in bonuses possible.
PROJECTED 2012 BUDGET AT THIS POINT: ~$115.5MM
Late December: The Cardinals complete a trade, sending Kyle McClellan somewhere for two minor league prospects.
PROJECTED 2012 BUDGET AT THIS POINT: $115MM
Late December: The Cardinals pass on Carlos Beltran. Mozeliak explains to the press that the team will use Schumaker and Adron Chambers as back up outfielders while waiting on Allen Craig to recover from knee surgery.
January 26, 2012: The Cardinals and Jason Motte avoid arbitration with a deal worth $1.95MM in 2012. That represents a raise of $1.5MM over 2011.
PROJECTED 2012 BUDGET AT THIS POINT: $116.5MM
March 1, 2012: The Cardinals reach an agreement with Yadier Molina. It’s a five year, $67.5MM deal that will pay Molina $13.5MM annually. Molina took the deal because of his friendship with Pujols and the perception that the Cardinals treated Pujols fairly. Meanwhile, Molina receives a raise of $7.5MM annually starting in 2013.
PROJECTED 2012 BUDGET AT THIS POINT: $116.5MM (unchanged)
PROJECTED 2013 BUDGET AT THIS POINT: $96.5MM
Molina receives his raise of $7.5MM.
PROJECTED 2013 BUDGET AT THIS POINT: $104MM
Adam Wainwright receives a raise of $3MM to $12MM in 2013.
PROJECTED 2013 BUDGET AT THIS POINT: ~$107MM
The Cardinals would also face arbitration with David Freese, Jon Jay, and a few others. Freese projects to be several million at that point, Jay possibly $2-$3MM. Regardless, the budget will be at least $110MM just with those parts signed.
Sometime in 2013 the Cardinals will want to sign Adam Wainwright to an extension. That’s probably $15MM AAV (based on two previous years of solid performance). The contract will start in 2014 (not overriding the previous contract). It represents a raise of approximately $2MM a year.
However, after the 2013 season Chris Carpenter‘s $10.5MM comes off the books. The budget has a net drop of approximately $8MM.
PROJECTED 2014 BUDGET AT THIS POINT: ~$101.5MM
WHEW! That’s pretty far into the future!
As we can see, the Pujols deal would’ve made things tighter, but not impossible. There would certainly need to be a greater reliance on the farm system to supply cheap talent, but that shouldn’t be a problem considering that the Cardinal farm system is ranked fourth in baseball.
The timing would be good, too, considering that Matt Holliday‘s deal ends in 2017 just as some of these youngsters would be reaching potential paydays and could be paid from the money saved from Holliday’s departure.
Anyway, I suppose it doesn’t matter; Pujols is not a Cardinal and the team chose to play a more conservative budgetary game. As it turned out, I think both sides end up winning.
Still, I can’t help but wonder how much more keeping Pujols was worth to the bottom line in the long run. Had the Cardinals tightened their belt a little bit in the short term, what financial rewards would they have realized as Pujols broke records and retired into the Hall as a Cardinal – and beyond?
Those are numbers that cannot be calculated on a spreadsheet, and are, most likely, priceless.