The ticking of the clock is growing louder and louder in St. Louis and throughout the baseball world. With each tick, everyone is wondering the same question, “Will the Cardinals show Albert Pujols the money?”

It’s been widely reported that Albert Pujols has set the deadline of Feb. 19 for negotiations to be completed, whether he has signed an extension or not. As the deadline looms closer, the fretting among the Cardinal Nation has turned into full-on chewing fingernails to the bone.

Could the Cardinals really let Albert Pujols get away?  It’s a hard scenario to envision, but Pujols seems quite serious about his deadline and if the Cards don’t have a deal in place by the deadline, he is almost certain to test free agency at the end of the year.  Players of Pujols’ caliber would be foolish to not test the market if the opportunity arises.

Another potential blow to the process is that Pujols won’t waive his no-trade clause, as reported by Buster Olney of ESPN. Pujols has earned his no-trade status by completing his 10 years of major league service and five years of service with the same team.

So if the Cardinals can’t get a deal in place, they would be left holding the proverbial empty bag with nothing to show for all Pujols gave to St. Louis except a few draft picks.

There are few teams that would be able to afford Pujols should he reach free agency.  But the one that would crush the Cardinals fan base is the Chicago Cubs. With new ownership in place and a ton of money coming off the books after 2011, the Cubs would be in a ripe position to bid on Pujols’ service.

If nothing else, they will be certain to drive up the price for the Cardinals and any other teams in the bidding process. 

Other teams rumored to have the ability to sign Pujols are the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the Texas Rangers. Cardinal fans can only hope the process won’t get to that point of wonderment. 

The production the Cardinals would lose should Pujols walk is a daunting task to replace. During his 10-year career, Pujols has averaged:

.331 119 190 41 123 91 .426 .624 1.050


If Pujols decided to walk away from the game today, his career numbers would probably get him in the Hall of Fame. At 31, Pujols probably has four or five monster seasons left, with numbers close to his career averages, and three or four pretty decent seasons if he can avoid injury.

The rumors floating out there say Pujols is looking for 10 years, $300 million. Whether or not those numbers are accurate remains to be seen, as both sides have done an almost air-tight job of keeping the negotiations out of the press. 

If the Cards pony up somewhere around $30 million a year, it would be my guess they would not go over eight years. Pujols would be 39 when an eight-year contract would expire. It’s hard to envision paying someone $30 million who would be in his 40s when the contract expires.

The Cardinals have always tried to keep their payroll around $100 million a season. They will need to come off that stance should they sign Pujols for his desired amount and still remain competitive. Last off-season, the Cards shelled out $17 million a season for Matt Holliday, and adding $30 million to Pujols will take 47 percent of their payroll in their current model. 

To remain a contender, their payroll is going to need to be in the $125 million a season range. With Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina due for big raises in 2012 from possible free agency, the Cardinals are going to have to open the purse a bit to keep their core intact.

As the final ticks count down, the Cardinals faithful can only hope that Chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. and GM John Mozeliak hear the bell tolling for them to step up and show Pujols the money. 

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