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The best baseball player on the planet, and possibly in the history of the game, will become a free agent after the 2011 season.

St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols, reported to spring training and both Pujols and the Cardinals have acknowledged that all negotiations have ceased until the season is over.
Pujols is without a doubt the most valuable and most consistently great player in baseball right now.
He is the only player in history to obtain at least 30 home runs and 100 runs batted in while maintaining a .300 batting average over the first 10 years of his career. However, it is very unlikely that he will be the best player in baseball for the next decade considering he is already 31 years old.

Two of the greatest baseball players of their time, Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron both showed dramatic loss of power once they hit their mid-30s, but then again, this is a new era of baseball.

The two sides had been negotiating a multi-year contract extension for the past month.  However, Pujols wanted to stop the contract negotiations so it would not be a distraction for the team.

Now that sets up a free agency period where teams will be drooling over the prospects of being able to sign one of the best baseball players in the history of the game.

Or will they?

Pujols is reportedly seeking to be the highest paid player in the history of MLB with a 10-year, $300 million contract, although Pujols recently denied the amount of money involved. This limits the amount of teams that could afford Pujols.
The Yankees are the biggest spending team in free agency every year. But they already are pretty set at first base, Mark Teixera, I’m sure you’ve heard of him? Also they have the last biggest contract in MLB history in Alex Rodriguez. At the age of 32, Rodriguez and the Yankees inked a 10-year $275 million contract in 2007.

He is now 35 years old and the Yankees already feel a bit hamstrung by the size of the contract.

Then the Red Sox would love to jump at the chance to sign Pujols right? Wait, they just traded for and are going to sign first baseman Adrian Gonzalez to a multi-year mega deal.

Ok, ok, but there are still other big spenders like the Mets and Dodgers right?  Actually no, the Wilpons, the owners of the Mets, are in the middle of a lawsuit stemming from the Bernie Madoff scandal that, if they lose, may end up costing them around one billion dollars.
They are not in a place to spend that kind of money right now.
And the Dodger’s owners, the Mccourt’s, are in the middle of a divorce and are not adding that type of money to their payroll right now either.

What about the other LA/Anaheim team? Well, the Angels lost out on free agents Carl Crawford and Adrian Beltre this offseason so it does not look like they are willing to break the bank for any one player either.
That leaves maybe one team, the Cubs, which could afford to offer Pujols the 10-year, $300 million contract he is reportedly seeking.

But would Pujols really ditch a perennially successful franchise, the Cards, for their bitter rival and perennial loser, the Cubs? I do not think so.

So while many Cardinal fans are horrified at the thought of Pujols leaving and want the Cardinals to just pay him whatever he desires so they can guarantee that Pujols will be a Cardinal for the rest of his career, I do not think it is worth it.
A 10-year, $300 million contract will prevent the Cardinals from being able to sign any other good players and will almost guarantee that they would not be able to compete for the last five to six years of Pujols’ contract.
While Pujols is the single most valuable individual, he is not more valuable than the three to four players the Cardinals would be able to sign with the money they did not use to sign him.
Milwaukee first baseman Prince Fielder is also set to become a free agent after this season. It is a possibility that the Cardinals could sign Fielder plus a couple other players that would more than compensate for losing Pujols to another team.
Meanwhile, it might be real hard for Pujols to find a team willing to give out a 10-year contract of such magnitude.Looks like the Cardinals have the advantage right now, and are trying to give themselves the best chance to win for years to come.

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