Where Will Albert Land?


Albert Pujols is a free agent and it is going to be fascinating, intriguing, captivating and probably shocking to hear and see what happens next.

Where or where will Albert go?

The St. Louis Cardinals’ first baseman is probably the most coveted free agent of all time. He is already a bona fide Hall of Famer and he is still in his prime. You’ve got to wonder how much moola it will take to put Pujols in a different shade of uniform for the 2012 season. And here’s a wild thought: Will money be everything?

Pujols is in charge of this negotiation because every team in baseball hungers to have him.  The only part he does not control is how much certain teams can afford to pay him. Some innovative thinking might pay off for an unlikely contender trying to cut a deal with one of the best players who ever lived and who for sure is the best player in baseball today.

If Pujos is determined to become the highest paid player in history, then the bidding war will come down to only a few teams. Alex Rodriguez signed a 10-year, $250 million contract to move from the Seattle Mariners to the Texas Rangers, but when he moved on to the Yankees, varoius contract maneuvers resulted in him being paid as much as $27 million a year.

If Pujols wants to break Rodriguez’s record and won’t sign for a penny less than $30 million a year, then his suitors will be limited to the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles/California Angels, and Chicago Cubs.

Pujols seems more like a homebody than a greedy guy, however, so I’m figuring he would return to the Cardinals for a hometown discount. Just how much of a hometown discount, all things being equal, is hard to predict, but say $20 million.

I would say $20 million a year will be the bottom salary on the bottom line no matter who is bidding, but just maybe there are other ways to play Let’s Make A Deal. The famous author John Hersey wrote a book called “The Child Buyer.” The basic theory behind the story is that everyone has his price and that price might not be measured solely in cash dollars. There might be something else that you’ve always wanted that makes you tingle in a unique way.

So after earmarking $20 million as a talking point, the truly wise Albert Pujols shopper must think creatively. To make Pujols really feel wanted teams that don’t have deep enough pockets to throw $30 million a year on the table must reach out and embrace him with the full-fledged backing of their communities.

If the Cardinals really want to keep Albert they should offer him $20 million, plus throw in possession of the Arch.

To inject themselves into the proceedings and to show their true love, the New York Mets should not only write the big check, but they should get Pujols the deed to the Statue of Liberty. (Naturally, the Yankees will counter with the Empire State Building.)

Nothing says Milwaukee like your own beer company.

Detroit’s Tigers must use their influence to give Pujols a Big Three automaker.

In Minnesota, the Twins might be able to get Pujols one of their 10,00o lakes.

The Dodgers can offer Disneyland.

Pujols might belong to the Seattle Mariners if they ante up the $20 mill, plus ownership of the Space Needle.

The Red Sox can go higher on the money front, anyway, but imagine how cool it would be for Pujols to own a few swan boats and the Boston Common.

If the Washington Nationals can get President Obama involved, the sky’s the limit on what they can offer. What’s another $40 million tacked onto the deficit? And just how neat would it be to have an office next to the Oval office?

To make Chicago Pujols’ kind of town, the White Sox might offer Lake Michigan. The Cubs could blow them out of the water, though, by signing off on the gift of Wrigley Field. Money is one thing, but nothing illustrates true love like the gift of real estate.

To win the Albert Pujols Sweepstakes teams are going to have to think out of the box. The wining and dining of Pujols could be an extended nationwide honeymoon for the slugger if he so desires.

Whether the final terms will be $30 million a year and a civic institution to be named later, or $20 million a year on a hometown discount to the Cardinals (My bet is that Pujols stays in St. Louis), or some other kind of crazy package, this is one time in an era of out-of-control professional sports salaries that the athlete is worth it.