MLB Odds and Predictions: Where Does Albert Pujols Land?
by Alan Matthews - 10/31/2011
It has already been a tumultuous offseason for the world champion St. Louis Cardinals, with manager Tony La Russa surprisingly retiring on Monday rather than come back to defend the Cards’ title. Yet I guarantee you that any Cardinal fan would take the trade off of losing La Russa but being able to bring back franchise icon Albert Pujols, who is now a free agent for the first time in his lock Hall of Fame career.
Will La Russa’s retirement affect Pujols’ fate? The two were certainly close, and La Russa is the only manager Pujols has played for, but it would be pretty much unprecedented for a star as big as Pujols to make his free agent decision based on whom his manager might be.
With that said, Bodog has posted MLB odds on where Pujols might sign this offseason. Whichever team signs him probably will have to pony up $30 million a year as Pujols feels he has been underpaid so far (he has) and deserves to make more than MLB’s current highest-paid player, Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod will make around $27 million a year next season, but you know the Yankees are kicking themselves right now for that deal with Rodriguez clearly trending downward and starting to break down physically.
So don’t rule out the fact that A-Rod’s contract disaster could scare off a few teams for Pujols. And one thing working against Pujols is that baseball’s three biggest spenders, the Yankees, Red Sox and Phillies, all have big money tied up in first basemen: Mark Teixeira, Adrian Gonzalez and Ryan Howard, respectively. There’s no way Pujols will agree to be just a designated hitter.
So here is a look at the Bodog betting options and our breakdown of each.
Chicago Cubs (7/4): Will new team president Theo Epstein want to come in and make a huge splash right away or will he wait a season to rebuild the infrastructure of the franchise? Even with Pujols the Cubs likely don’t contend in 2012. Obviously, if the Cubs could sucker some team into taking the horrid contracts of Alfonso Soriano (no chance) and Carlos Zambrano, that might determine how big of a spender Epstein is this offseason. But Epstein has been promised he will have a substantial budget. However, I think he goes after the younger and cheaper Prince Fielder.
Cardinals (2/1): I’m in the camp that thinks Pujols simply can’t leave St. Louis. He just wouldn’t look right in any other uniform, and he owns that town. But the Cards also aren’t going to give him $30 million a year, with their reported top offer last winter topping out at nine years and around $200 million. If Pujols is strictly in it for money, then he probably does leave. But his legacy would take a hit. I think this is where your money has to go.
Angels (9/2): Team owner Arte Moreno is frustrated at seeing his club get passed in the AL West by the Rangers, and the Halos certainly need to do something to try and catch up to Texas after missing out on Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez last year. But the Halos seem set at first base with Mark Trumbo and, if healthy, Kendry Morales. They have holes elsewhere to fill, especially at third base – can’t see Albert moving back there.
Nationals (7/1): The Nats are expected to be one of the big spenders again this offseason after nearly finishing .500 this season and expecting to get a full year out of Stephen Strasburg in 2012. And Washington management has a good relationship with Pujols’ agent, Scott Boras. Pujols also would help at the gate, which Washington could use as well. There are some rumors that the Nats will offer Albert a 10-year, $300 million deal. No way the Cards can match that, but is coming close enough to keep Pujols? I would call the Nats the second-favorites.
Red Sox, Dodgers, Yankees and Giants (12/1): Throw out the Red Sox and Yankees for the reasons listed earlier. I just don’t see the Giants spending that much money even though they definitely will be adding offense this offseason – probably on Jose Reyes. The Dodgers could be a player if Frank McCourt sells the team, either by force or choice. But L.A. also will have to pay Matt Kemp huge dollars soon, so that may rule the Dodgers out of the Pujols sweepstakes.
Rangers (15/1): Texas really doesn’t need much lineup help, although first base is certainly one of the team’s weak spots. I think the Rangers focus their money on pitching this offseason, specifically in replacing C.J. Wilson with a true ace (CC Sabathia? Yu Darvish?)
Blue Jays (30/1): Supposedly the Jays, who have shed some bad contracts the past few years, are ready to spend this offseason because they think they can contend in 2012 (and the Canadian dollar remains strong). No offense to the city of Toronto, which is a great place, but can you see Pujols going north of the border? I can’t.
The Cards have exclusive negotiating rights with Pujols until Wednesday at midnight, which is when other teams can start calling. Don’t expect anything to get done by then. I think Pujols stays a Cardinal, but if you want to go for value, throw a few bucks down on the Nationals.
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