On the heels of their second World Series title in the past six years, the St. Louis Cardinals also had the best offseason of any team in baseball.
At first blush, you may be thinking, “huh?”
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But hear me out: The Cardinals got Albert Pujols’ best years and didn’t have to pay the back tax on it like the Yankees with Derek Jeter. Giving Pujols a 10-year deal would have been as much about sentimentality and past production as it would be for his future production. You would have to assume the decline is coming, if it hasn’t already subtly begun.
The Angels’ monster offer also takes the Cardinals brass off the griddle with a very loyal fan base; fans who would understand Pujols was going to take every last dollar, yet would have given you the benefit of the doubt had you offered him something reasonable in the eight-year, $200 million range. You now are out from under a contract that most likely will be an albatross and untradeable by year six or seven. It creates the freedom to supplement what is a playoff-caliber roster without Pujols, in a financially sound way.
Cardinals fans still will have their day to celebrate what Pujols gave to them, regardless of what he does going forward, at some future date when he returns to have his number retired. Whether they’ll admit it or not, there can’t be a happier front office coming out of this winter than the Cardinals. While not a small-market team, the Cardinals are not the Yankees, Red Sox or Phillies, and still need to be financially sound. The freedom obtained here will give them a better chance of competing in the next decade.
Not to mention that there’s no reason to believe Adam Wainwright won’t be back to ace status by the middle of the year.