Albert Pujols is the best player in Major League Baseball.
He will almost certainly have a .300/.400/.600 line at the end of this upcoming season, as he has for seven of his first 10 years and will headline any discussion of potential MVP candidates. His service to his community is impressive, and he took a hometown discount on his previous contract.
He has even managed to accomplish what was previously thought impossible: challenging Stan Musial for the title of best player in Cardinals history. He is “The Machine.” He will produce as he does year after year, both on the field and in hilarious ESPN commercials.
But enough compliments. This column is less concerned with his current accomplishments than it is with his destination after the upcoming season. As I see it, there are a few possible choices.
The first is the most obvious: that he re-ups with St. Louis. Pujols is the heartbeat of that team, and by heartbeat I mean the only good batter not named Matt Holliday. Don’t even try to argue for Nick Punto and his .615 OPS.
As much as it pains my Red Stocking’d heart to admit, I believe Cardinals fans are the best in baseball, in terms of historical knowledge and appreciation for current players. They’d be dancing in the streets if Pujols decided to re-sign. Unfortunately for them, this will only make it more painful when this best-case scenario does not come to pass.
Pujols won’t be able to squeeze anywhere close to a 10-year/$300-million deal out of notoriously frugal Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt Jr., and he’ll end up seeking out more Benjamins than he can find under the Gateway Arch.
So where does he end up? Let’s go through the usual suspects.
New York Yankees: Mark Teixeira is under contract for the next six years, and as much as I’m sure Hank Steinbrenner would love to have a $30 million/year DH, Brian Cashman might actually go all Jason Statham in “Crank 2: High Voltage” (2009) if that came to pass. If you’ve never seen “Crank 2,” you’re doing yourself a favor.
Boston Red Sox: With fingers crossed and prayers being uttered, Adrian Gonzalez will be signed for the next six to seven years. As much as I’m sure Pujols would be happy to join the prohibitive AL favorites, I’m not sure we have space for him. Sorry, bud.
Detroit Tigers: They’ll have Miguel Cabrera for the next however many years he can stay sober. Another constant MVP candidate, Miggy has learned to love working on his Hall of Fame credentials more than his beer gut, so he won’t be displaced any time soon.
Los Angeles Dodgers: If Pujols could split himself in half, the Dodgers might consider signing him as the McCourts go through the divorce proceedings, just so he isn’t haggled over. Not a star player blocking his move here, just too much else going on.
Philadelphia Phillies: Don’t they only sign good pitchers?
New York Mets: Turns out the Mets actually exacerbated the Madoff situation instead of simply being satisfied with Tufts’ philosophy of getting money stolen. I’m not sure the Wilpons have the stones to hand out a monster contract while trying to sell a minority stake in the company to pay off anticipated lawsuit debts, even with Carlos Beltran coming off the books. Plus, I’m sure they’ll want to extend another $36 million contract to Oliver Perez.
Chicago Cubs: My pick for where he ends up. Carlos Peña, with his $10 million and 10 million strikeouts, are gone at the end of the season, and even though the Cubs haven’t won anything since the first year the Model T was produced, Pujols might work some magic. They’ll have the money, even.