Albert Pujols and the Cardinals being unable to come to an agreement on a contract extension has been the big news of the week and provoked a lot of commentary speculating on the motives of all those involved and what the implications might fall out from this.
I am uninterested in predictions about what will happen since even the best are no better than mildly informed guesses, but I am interested in how people view Pujols as a possible asset outside the abstract. That is, suppose nine months from now you are the General Manager for your favorite team and Pujols’ agent calls you up and tells you that if you offer the most money, Albert will sign there. How much do you offer? What’s your breaking point?
You can run the projected cost benefit analysis and consider or not whatever you want, but the idea is not to simply evaluate Pujols in a vacuum and rattle off how many WAR you think he’ll be worth and what that is likely to cost. Those are static assumptions based around the league average while each team exists in a different place and so is not subject to the exact same values. If you were Brian Cashman, would adding Albert Pujols be worth the cost when you already have Mark Teixeira on the team? How much trade value do you think you could get for Tex and how does that affect your willingness to sign Pujols? Would the marketing value of bringing him to New York (and denying him to Boston, or one of the LAs) nudge you higher?
Assume your team payroll cannot be greatly raised just to fit Pujols in. That’s the easy way out. Every fan wants Albert Pujols on his or her favorite team and 99% of fans would not be adversely affected is their team raised the payroll budget to fit him into it. The real question is in considering how much Pujols’ obvious on field value and nebulous off field value offsets his salary cost when factoring in your team’s actual situation.
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