Pujols to the Cubs?

Even before the self-imposed deadline passed, the Chicago media planted the seed. Now that Albert Pujols will put off negotiations until the completion of the season, the media has run wild with the notion that Pujols could (should?) sign with the Chicago Cubs next season. Cubs Chairman, Tom Ricketts, hasn’t exactly dispelled the notion, saying the Cubs should have more “financial flexibility” once the season ends. Is Pujols signing with the Cubs a legitimate possibility, or nothing more than a pipe dream created by the media?

Ricketts is correct when he says the Cubs will have some financial flexibility next season. Kosuke Fukudome and Carlos Pena will reach free-agency, allowing the Cubs to save $24 million. It’s more than likely the Cubs will not pick up an option on Carlos Silva, which would clear an additional $10 million for the next season. The Cubs also hold an option on Aramis Ramirez, but could keep the veteran if he can bounce back this season. Assuming the Cubs let Fokudome and Pena walk, and pay Silva to pitch elsewhere, the Cubs could clear around $34 million next off-season. If money isn’t as much of an issue, and the team will already have a vacancy at first base, what would hold them back from pursuing Pujols?

The state of this current Cubs team is tough to gauge. While they have one of the largest payrolls in all of baseball, the Cubs are not considered serious contenders for the division. If the Cubs struggle in 2011, they are going to have to decide whether it’s worth it to pursue Pujols when they could have multiple holes to fill. If Andrew Cashner, Casey Coleman and Tyler Colvin prove they are capable of starting at the major league level, Pujols could be exactly what the Cubs need to make them a contender in 2012. Should those players falter, the Cubs will have multiple holes to fill during the next off-season.

The Cubs, however, appear to be one of the few teams that can actually court Pujols in the next off-season. The Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies have already committed to their first basemen of the future, and the Los Angeles Dodgers are a mess financially. The Los Angeles Angels were considered major players in the free-agent market heading into this off-season, but may have committed too much money to Vernon Wells after missing out on some of the premier free-agents (Adrian Beltre and Carl Crawford). The Toronto Blue Jays might be the only other team that could challenge the Cubs and Cardinals for Pujols’ services. The Blue Jays cleared a lot of payroll recently (Vernon Wells and Alex Rios), and they can easily move Adam Lind to DH if they sign Pujols. Toronto isn’t perceived as a big-market team, however, and it’s unclear whether they could handle such a large increase in their payroll. A lot can change between now and next season, but the Cubs look to be one of the few teams competing for Pujols.

Despite the fact that their initial deadline to negotiate has passed, the Cardinals are still going to be a major player in the Pujols sweepstakes. While the Cubs would love to extract the best player from their arch-rival, the Cardinals may still hold the upper hand in negotiations. If St. Louis actually allows Pujols to reach the free-agent market, the Cubs will be legitimate contenders for his services. It’s a scary thought for Cardinals’ fans, but the potential exists for Pujols to bleed Cubbie blue next season.

We hoped you liked reading Pujols to the Cubs? by Chris Cwik!

Please support FanGraphs by becoming a member. We publish thousands of articles a year, host multiple podcasts, and have an ever growing database of baseball stats.

FanGraphs does not have a paywall. With your membership, we can continue to offer the content you've come to rely on and add to our unique baseball coverage.

Support FanGraphs




Chris is a blogger for CBSSports.com. He has also contributed to Sports on Earth, the 2013 Hard Ball Times Baseball Annual, ESPN, FanGraphs and RotoGraphs. He tries to be funny on twitter @Chris_Cwik.

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
André
Guest
André

“Toronto isn’t perceived as a big market team, however, and it’s unclear whether they could handle such a large increase in their payroll.”

What does perception have to do with it? The fact is that Toronto is a large market, the owners have stated there is money to spend, and they are some of the wealthiest owners in baseball. Are you suggesting that Pujols would only sign with a team that he “perceived” to be big market?

André
Guest
André

Not suggesting he would, or will, or even that he should sign with Toronto, by the way.

OTerry
Guest
OTerry

Toronto is in fact, larger than Chicago.

However, the Cubs are much more widely perceived to be a “major” team – in the US media at least. Perhaps that what Pujols would prefer as a destination, and what the author is implying when he refers to Toronto as not being “perceived” as big market.

U-G
Guest

Toronto is not larger than Chicago.

http://www.citypopulation.de/world/Agglomerations.html

André
Guest
André

Even if that’s the case, it seems bizarre to bring perception into a discussion of finances. Conceivably Pujols will trust that the money on the table in front of him is “real”.

OTerry
Guest
OTerry

Ok, I misspoke about Toronto definitively being larger than Chicago.

Chicago’s population is on the decline, shrinking at a rate of 6.9% since 2000, and is now at the same level as it was in 1920 at 2.69 million (from 2010 census).

Toronto is at about 2.68 million (2009 numbers), but is likely already larger than Chicago due to its positive growth. The 2011 census will likely provide definitive proof.

So all in all, 2.68 and 2.69 million is about same.

For market size considerations, while the Chicago Metropolitan Area (9.7 mil) is larger than the Greater Toronto area (6.1 mil), the Jays are the only Canadian team, and have a national market size of 33 million (with national TV coverage).

If the Jays can capture the imagination of Toronto and the nation (Canada, eh) with a winning club, then they could blow past the records of the early 90s team, when they were arguably the most successful, best attended and perhaps the wealthiest.

I personally find it highly doubtful that the Jays would go aggressively for Pujols, or if Pujols would seriously consider playing for the Jays (or an AL team for that matter).

David Wishinsky
Guest

While Toronto and Chicago are of fairly comparable sizes, I think it is key to note: that the 9.7M metro area is shared among two teams meaning 4.85M per team versus Toronto’s 6.1M only game in town.

mikey
Guest
mikey

chicago’s metropolitan population is around 9.7m vs 5.5m for toronto. Chicago is significantly larger than toronto.

joser
Guest
joser

chicago’s metropolitan population is around 9.7m vs 5.5m for toronto. Chicago is significantly larger than toronto.

And at 30+ Million, Canada is significantly larger than Chicago. And all of Canada is the Blue Jays’ market. When folks in Calgary watch baseball on TV, they’re watching the Blue Jays. When folks in Edmonton watch baseball on TV, they’re watching the Blue Jays. Ditto Winnipeg and Moncton and White Horse and Ottawa and Halifax and Tuktoyaktuk. Except for the Fox game every Saturday, and the couple of dozen Mariners games the Rogers Pacific subscribers in BC see, it’s pretty much all Blue Jays… from coast to coast to coast, as they say.

Granted, most of those people would rather watch junior hockey than MLB. Or women’s hockey. Or street hockey, probably. But if you’re just going to use population numbers, it’s the national population for Canada you have to use.

André
Guest
André

Don’t think a lot of hockey is watched from July-October, anyway.

David Wishinsky
Guest

I don’t know what the value of fans in Moose Jaw is to Toronto? The television revenue I have to imagine is fixed at whatever the all of the Canada rate is. A fan in Moose Jaw might buy additional memorabilia so I give you that, but they don’t boost attendance. No one in Prince Rupert is excited for that short 4,000 mile trip to see the Jays take on the Orioles for an afternoon game. So there is SOME value, I wonder how much. And I don’t know other than memorabilia what else really is benefited with a bazillion square mile fanbase

joser
Guest
joser

Don’t think a lot of hockey is watched from July-October, anyway.

But if it was, most folks in Canada would prefer to watch it to the Blue Jays. Heck, they’ll tune in during August for guys standing around in empty rinks talking about the off-season, or selections for the upcoming junior teams.

And I don’t know other than memorabilia what else really is benefited with a bazillion square mile fanbase.

Ask the advertisers, who get three plus hours of slots to advertise to a national audience. Tim Horton’s, for example, seems to think there’s value in that bazillion square mile fanbase. If Jays games were only broadcast in the Toronto Metro area, do you really think they’d earn exactly the same advertising dollars?

B N
Guest
B N

I think some of the issue is not the market size, but the resulting fan-base size. Some towns are football towns, some are basketball towns, some are hockey towns, and some are baseball towns. I would definitely put Toronto in the hockey-town category. It seems like the fan bases go: Hockey >> Baseball > Basketball in Toronto.

I think being the 2nd favorite sport tends to hurt the fan base. In Chicago, baseball is king. They have two teams in the town and they can sell out both stadiums, despite being the smaller city. In Toronto, that just plain doesn’t happen.

The issue here is one of those: “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” Toronto has the market size, but your money comes from market size * % fans * brand loyalty. Until the Blue Jays can increase their fanbase, they’re not going to be a big market team- they’ll be a mid-market team in a huge market.

Eddie
Guest
Eddie

Football is king in Chicago. Trust me. I’m a much bigger Cubs fan than Bears fan, but I wouldn’t dream of claiming that either baseball team (or even both teams combined) boast the size or passion of the Bears fanbase. The Bears are king in Chicago, and that’s a fact, jack.

Eric
Guest
Eric

honestly, i think the Raptors are more popular than the Jays… even though they’re terrible.

David Wishinsky
Guest

Toronto’s problem is that awful stadium. It went out of vogue three years after it opened thanks to Camden Yards. From the upper deck you literally need a respirator.

Ryan
Guest
Ryan

Imagine of realignment (perhaps no divisions) was announced before the season ended and Toronto realized they would become legitimate playoff contenders and see their revenue rise accordingly… PUJOLS!

Josh
Guest
Josh

Wouldn’t a bigger issue be the higher income taxes in Toronto? I know a bunch of NBA players have said that is a big disadvantages for the Raptors.

Kevin
Guest
Kevin

there are many ways around that… all you need is a good personal financier. i doubt any player in TO makes a cent less than they would in the US.

i believe the tax situation depends on where you actually live not on where you work

Dustin
Guest
Dustin

I agree here Josh, the taxes thing definitely comes into play. It plays a major role in players decisions because you are talking millions of dollars difference in taxes. Chris Bosh for example went for Toronto to Florida(no state tax), he took a big pay cut and is making almost identical to what he was last year because of the difference in tax.

Kevin, it doesn’t matter how good your financier is in a situation like this. Unless your accountant is going to do illegal things you just can’t hide millions of dollars(~30/year in this instance).

When you live compared to work matters between states in the U.S. to an extent, but if you are making money in a different country you are going to have to pay taxes there.

wpDiscuz