Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the offseason. On Monday some announcements already started to come in, with a trade happening, a contract extension, and player options being picked up and declined.
The New York Yankees opted to extend CC Sabathia before he opted out of his contract. Sabathia agreed to a one-year extension worth $25 million for the 2016 season, and a vesting option for 2017 worth another $25 million. If the option for 2017 doesn't become vested, he'll get a $5 million buy out. The extension guarantees CC 122 million over the next 5 years. However we all assumed that even if CC did opt out of his current contract, that he was likely going to wind up still a Yankee with a new contract next year.
The real questions of the offseason: Where are Prince and Albert going to wind up?
My theory: Albert is not going anywhere.
Hear me out on this. I have listened to countless reports saying that there will be a bidding war, and that nobody knows where Albert is going to end up. My question to you is: Who is going to be doing the bidding? Because right now I can only see two teams with the resources and open roster space to accommodate the star. Maybe three teams..... maybe.
My apologies Jays fans, but Toronto isn't one of them. Despite possibly having the money to pay Pujols $30 million a year, Beeston has made it known that he would never sign off on a contract for that more than 5 years guaranteed.
It has been reported that Pujols is looking for a deal in the ball park of $300 million over 10 years, making him the first $300 million dollar player. There is some reason to believe this story. Last February the Cardinals were trying to lock up the three time MVP to a long term deal before spring training. The deal that they were willing to offer at that time, according to sources familiar with the process, described the package’s total value at more than $200 million paid out over a nine or 10 year term. Pujols rejected, and the deal was re-worked several times that involved shifting years and salary and apparently even an equity stake in the team. Pujols still declined, and entered the 2011 season as the last year in his current contract.
So let's assume that Albert is indeed looking for 8 to 10 years, and $25 to $30 million per season. What teams could afford the financial burden?
There are 12 teams in Major League Baseball with payrolls which exceeded $100 million over the 2011 Season. Let's take a look at each one, and see if either Albert or Prince fits. I am also going to assume that neither Pujols or Fielder will except a DH role.
1. The New York Yankees. 2011 payroll: $201,689,030
The Yankees do have $17 million coming off the books from Jorge Posada, however they are going to need most of that money to put towards a long term deal for Robinson Cano. The Yankees also have Mark Texiera locked up at first base through the 2016 season at $22.5 million per year. Texeira is not going to settle for a DH role. The Yankees also have Jesus Montero ready to step into the DH role for them in the 2012 season, and although they've solved the Sabathia problem, they still need to put any available resources into fixing their starting rotation. They need two more arms, and are expected to make an effort to sign a couple through free agency.
2. The Philadelphia Phillies. 2011 payroll: $172,976,381
Two words: Ryan Howard. Howard is locked up at first base through 2016 and is going to make $20 million each of the next two seasons, and $25 million the three following seasons. There is also a team option for 2017 at $23 million, with a $10 million buyout. So unless they are planning on trading him (good luck with that), Philadelphia is not in the running here.
3. The Boston Red Sox. 2011 payroll: $161,407,476
The Red Sox have Adrian Gonzalez signed through the 2018 season. He will make $21 million per year for the first five years, and $21.5 million for the next two. They could take a run at one of the two big ticket free agents to be their DH. However as I said before I don't think either would settle for a DH role. I suspect that if Boston is going to hand out a large contract to a position player, it would be Aramis Ramirez that they pursue. Moving Kevin Youkilis to the DH role for 2012. Assuming that they don't re-sign David Ortiz.
4. The LA Angels of Anaheim. 2011 payroll: $138,998,524
Ok, so the Angles could, potentially be a player here. I am unsure of the contract status of Kendrys Morales. He is not listed on the MLB free agents list, but his contract did run out at the end of 2011. So I am assuming that because he missed the 2011 season, he is still controlled by arbitration, and will be back with the Angels this year. If this is the case, then the Angels have Morales at first base, and Mark Trumbo to DH, or vice versa, and don't really have a place for either stud. However, Morales was making less than $3 million this year, and Trumbo is entering only his second year of service, so either player could easily be moved to another team to make room, but that doesn't seem to make much sense financially for the Angels. Morales is a Boras client though, so when it comes time to re-sign him, he will probably command a large salary. Perhaps the Angels would rather lock up Fielder or Pujols than give the money to Kendrys. As I said, they could potentially be a player.
5. The Chicago White Sox. 2011 payroll: $129,285,539
Adam Dunn is signed through 2014 and will make $14 million in 2012, and $15 million the two years following. Paul Konerko is signed through 2013 and will receive $12 million this year, and $13.5 million the year after. Neither of these guys is being moved. The White Sox don't have room for Prince or Albert.
6. The Chicago Cubs. 2011 payroll: $125,480,664
Bingo! One of these two big ticket free agents is going to land here next year. If the Cubs don't sign either of these guys, you can bet that they did everything in their power to try and make it happen. Chicago is under new management, and brought in Theo Epstein from Boston to try and take them to the promised land that they have not been to in over 100 years. The Cubs have been waiting for Pujols and Fielder. Last year when Derrek Lee left town, they signed Carlos Pena to a one year deal at $10 million to be a stop gap for them at first. Now, they have an open base, and money to burn. I think if you ask them, Pujols is the guy they want. I think Fielder is who they get though. Mainly because I am still of the opinion that Pujols is going to remain in St. Louis. So look for Prince Fielder at Wrigley next year, and probably for the 8 to 10 years following.
7. The New York Mets. 2011 payroll: $120,147,310
Normally, I would have thought that the Mets would be trying to get one of these guys. They are a big market team and could support the salary. There is potential that they could be in the running as well. However, given the ownership issues they are having in NY, I expect that Ike Davis will be manning first for them again this year.
8. The San Francisco Giants. 2011 payroll: $118,216,333
Technically the Giants could sign one of Albert or Prince, but they won't. Their payroll in 2010 was $96,277,833 and in 2009 it was $82,616,450. They are already outside of their comfort zone, and they have six free agents, and 13 salary arbitration eligible players, including Jonathan Sanchez and Tim Lincecum that they need to do something about. It is also rumored that they are hoping to resign Carlos Beltran. Aubrey Huff is currently signed to play first base for the Giants through the 2012 season.
9. The Minnesota Twins. 2011 payroll: $112,737,000
I'm not going to spend much time on this one. Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer are both locked up long term, and one of them is going to play first. Their 2011 payroll is also way over their 2010 and 2009 numbers (97 million, and 65 million respectively) and they have Jason Kubel, Micheal Cuddyer, Matt Capps and Joe Nathan to either re-sign or replace. They are not in the running for Pujols or Fielder.
10. The Detroit Tigers. 2011 payroll: $105,705,232
Miguel Cabrera at first base, Victor Martinez at DH. Enough said.
11. The St. Louis Cardinals. 2011 payroll: $105,433,572
They want Pujols back, and I'm hoping he stays here. Whether he'll be willing to take a hometown discount, your guess is as good as mine. It is very possible that he flees to Chicago for more money. However if I am a betting man, I think he's back in St. Louis next year, because I think the Cubs are the only real competition for him. If he does leave, it's not the end of the world for the Cardinals. They could have Berkman play first, and Allan Craig be the every day right fielder. However, if you've got Pujols and Wainwright coming back next year, it wouldn't be hard to start thinking repeat. All they need is a manager and a centre fielder.
12. The Los Angeles Dodgers. 2011 payroll: $103,788,990
The Dodgers would have been another team that I would have thought would be interested in the running this offseason. However, with their recent ownership issues, I don't think they are in any position to make a run at one of these guys. I'm counting the Dodgers out if they don't have a new owner with deep pockets by the end of November.
So to summarize, I don't see where the big bidding war is going to come from. They way I see it, The Cardinals, Cubs, and Angels are the only real players here, and who knows if the Angels really will be or not. It is possible that Pujols would leave St. Louis for Chicago. Chances are the Cubs can offer him more money than St. Louis. But if he really wants a 10 year deal, his best chance of getting this is probably to stay in St. Louis.
I reviewed the top twelve payrolls, but didn't mention any dark horses. If there is a dark horse in this race at all. I believe it's Baltimore. Baltimore had money to burn last year, and no one would take it. They are focused on becoming better and competing in the AL east, and if their young pitching materializes in 2012, they may only be one big piece away from competing. However, I would see Baltimore being used more as a bargaining chip than anything else. Fielder and Pujols' agents would probably take offers from Baltimore, only to play them against the teams they will actually end up signing with. Baltimore is not yet an attractive landing place for free agents.
If Albert stays in St. Louis, then I will bet my car that Fielder goes to the Cubs. If Pujols goes to the Cubs, Then I suspect that Fielder will go to the Angels, Dodgers or Mets for not near the money that everyone seems to think. It would be much closer to the $20 million mark than $30 million. I suspect that Scott Boras will want Prince to wait until after Pujols has a deal, to sign his. My advice to Prince would be to sign first. Because if he waits, and Albert goes to the Cubs, there just may not be much money left for Prince. Certainly not paid out over 7 to 10 years.
But, we will all have to anxiously wait and see.