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Posted at 7:14 PM ET, 02/17/2011

Albert Pujols, Washington National? Some thoughts

By Adam Kilgore

Tyler Kepner, the esteemed national baseball writer for the New York Times, wrote an interesting post on the newspaper's Bats blog. He engages in some educated speculation that the Nationals would be a sensible fit for Albert Pujols should he become a free agent, a prospect made more likely Wednesday when his self-imposed deadline to sign a contract extension with the St. Louis Cardinals passed.

The idea of the Nationals as a suitor for Pujols, as exceedingly hypothetical as it is, seems to be gaining steam, a ripple effect from the busy, splashy offseason. By handing Jayson Werth his seven-year, $126 million contract, the Nationals announced themselves as a major player for elite, expensive talent. The baseball world took notice.

The Werth contract showed the Nationals had money to spend, and certainly, the Lerners have more. First of all, they're billionaires; it's not a question of if they can spend the money, only if they want to and if they can convince a desirable player to take it.

Secondly, the Nationals have ample short-term payroll flexibility. Even after signing Werth, the Nationals' opening day 2011 payroll will settle somewhere around $63 million, which is actually less than their $66 million opening day payroll in 2010.

albert.jpg

The Nationals' money and their malleable first base situation makes them an intriguing potential suitor. Yes, they signed Adam LaRoche to a two-year contract this offseason. But in the pie-in-the-sky event they can land Pujols, they could easily trade him or just eat LaRoche's contract and consider it part of the astronomical price to acquire one of the best hitters in baseball history.

There are obstacles, though, foremost the one all suitors face: the likelihood that Pujols returns to the Cardinals. He is an icon in St. Louis, and he is worth more to the Cardinals than any other club. The Cardinals missed one chance to sign him, but there will be many, many more chances for them to sign him before he hits free agency, deadline or no deadline. Today, Pujols said he wants to be a Cardinal "forever," which would seem to diminish anyone's chance of signing him. That's an awful long time.

And while the Nationals seemingly have money to burn, the future holds several potentially lucrative deals that must be considered.

Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman's contract extension will run out at the end of the 2013 season, at which point, given their ages, he may very well be a more valuable player than Pujols. (Pujols will be 33, Zimmerman 28.) Stephen Strasburg's future is somewhat in question as he recovers from Tommy John surgery, but odds favor a full recovery and if he reaches his enormous potential, the Nationals will owe him big money in arbitration starting in 2014, and he is eligible for free agency after the 2017 season. Bryce Harper's free agency will be looming at that point. And Werth's massive deal will be on the books until 2018.

We're starting to wade into extreme hypotheticals here, even compared to the usual Albertageddon scenarios; Harper has not even appeared in his first spring training.

If the Nationals really do get serious about Pujols if and when the time comes, his immense ability probably becomes the priority - sign him and figure out the rest later. But the current Werth deal and potential new contracts for Zimmerman, Strasburg and Harper are something that will have to be weighed as the Nationals move forward, even when it comes to the possibility of bidding for the best baseball player alive.

By Adam Kilgore  | February 17, 2011; 7:14 PM ET
 
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Comments

Really?!?!?!?! C'mon, lay off the bad acid.

The Natinals can't even sign Fat Albert, let alone Albert Pujols.

This post is bad because it'll give the Natinals one sliver of hope (for a team/fanbase that needs any and all hope they can get) of signing him.

No way he signs with a loser-of-a-franchise like Washington.

Thanks for the laugh though.

Posted by: P00PY_MCP00P | February 17, 2011 7:59 PM | Report abuse

After the Tulo deal happened, it became abundantly clear that the club needs to proactively lock in Zim, and I think that this would make sense during the first half of the year: get it out of the way early, then start to turn focus towards 2nd half trades and the 2012 FA market.

Of course it is intriguing to think about Pujols in DC, and the Nats should make a strong run at him. But there's an additional reason besides having him at 1B: raise the market value to inflate another club's budget. You compete on the field, but you can also impact another team's competitiveness by adding to their budget. Driving Pujols to $30MM/year will weaken another club's ability to sign other players.

Posted by: joemktg1 | February 17, 2011 8:24 PM | Report abuse

Before all the wise-crackers get on here and talk about why this could never happen, let me say that, as a Nats fan, I don't want it to happen.

Anyone remember the Texas Rangers signing Alex Rodriguez to his first $250 million deal? Sure, they had the best player in the game. Unfortunately, they had no money left over to surround him with any decent teammates. The result: a lot of mediocre to bad seasons.

As this article points out, the Nats are coming up on very big negotiations in the next 2-4 years. And I guess if the Lerners decided to go all Steinbrenner on the the rest of the League they could get Pujols and keep Zim, Stras, Harper, et. al. But more likely, signing Pujols would require somewhere in the range of $275 million, and a commitment to a number of years that would likely be more than Pujols has left in his productive career.

I just don't think it would be worth it.

OK, now all you comedians can start making fun of the whole idea of the Lerners spending that kind of money, and the idea that Pujols would actually consider coming anyway.

Kevin Olson
Manassas, VA

Posted by: noslok | February 17, 2011 8:24 PM | Report abuse

As much as I'd like to believe AP would sign with the Nats, I just don't see it. First of all, he is more valuable to other teams who are a player away from contending. Second, it will be a LOT of money for a player who will not make the Nats significantly better by himself, although it would make quite a splash. But Rizzo has demonstrated that he is a sensible GM, not a splashy one. So my gut is that to Rizzo it would make more sense to spend the same amount of money it would take to get AP to come to DC on a decent couple of starting pitchers, and sign some good draft picks and FA's to build the club properly and with depth.

Lastly - I fear superstar deals in general. I just don't want Pujols to be to the Nats what Alfonso Soriano became to the Cubs - a fat contract you wish you'd never signed.

Posted by: ehay2k | February 17, 2011 8:31 PM | Report abuse

With the Yankees, Red Sox, Phillies, probably the broke Mets, and the White Sox sitting out the Pujols sweepstakes the Nats have as good of a chance as anyone left to land him.

Cardinals, Cubs, Dodgers, Brewers, maybe the Rangers, and the Nats, why not?

8 years, 28 million per maybe?

Posted by: peteywheatstraw | February 17, 2011 9:10 PM | Report abuse

I'd love to see it. The fact that it's even being discussed by a non-local writer offers a lot of hope for the future.

Posted by: longbow1 | February 17, 2011 9:11 PM | Report abuse

I guess that Albert's agent is behind the rumour; not that there is anything wrong with that. The bottom line is that we have a stop-gap first baseman and Albert is the best player in the game.

To sign Puljos for a #1 pick (if we finish high enough, more likely a #2 pick) and some of Ted Lerner's money would be a coup.

30 million 10 years is of course ridiculous. 10 years, 20 million is not. 25 million, 8 years might be more than the Cardinals can afford and within the Lerner's price range.

While 200 million or more may sound insane; its over 8 to 10 years, and the Lerner's make 200 million a year on interest earned from the money in the family vault.

Really depends if Rizzo thinks that Puljos is good enough defensively to justify paying for extraordinary bat (it is). Also if Uncle Ted wants to see a winner sooner rather than later.

Since I think he does, I think we set the market ... and if it doesn't work out, we start working the Yankees hard for a Tleixara trade contingent on their signing Puljos for 300 million.

Spring is the time for dreaming :)

Posted by: shperl | February 17, 2011 9:17 PM | Report abuse

ehay2k;

To be honest with you as silly as it may seem the Nats ARE only a couple players away from a serious run. This coming from a Phils fan.

If you guys pick up a quality starter or two in addition to AP there's no reason not to think big. Personally I hope it doesn't happen.

Posted by: sire1 | February 17, 2011 9:24 PM | Report abuse

It would be nice, but three $10 million players signed to < 5-year deals would make more sense than one $30 million player in his 30s with a questionable elbow.

Posted by: InTheCheapSeats | February 17, 2011 9:33 PM | Report abuse

Susan Walker, the name of the little girl character in Miracle On 34th Street said it best:

"I believe... I believe... It's silly, but I believe."

Tug McGraw: "Ya gotta believe"


He's coming.

I said he was coming

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/01/19/AR2011011904149_Comments.html#

and he is coming.


It starts with belief. The 1962 Mets went 40-120, followed by six years of 51-111, 53-109, 50-112, 66-95, 61-101, 73-89.

The 1969 Miracle Mets (100-62) after spotting the Orioles (109-53) game 1, came back to win four straight and take the WS.

The 2004 Red Sox came back from 0-3 to take the ALCS from the Yankees.

1966 Texas Western over Kentucky in the NCAA final.

1969 Super Bowl.

1776 American Colonies


It starts with belief. We deserve good players and a good team.

Why not us?

Posted by: OldDad | February 17, 2011 9:41 PM | Report abuse

I WOULD MOVE BACK TO DC IN A NY SECOND IF THEY COULD SIGN PULJOS LEAVE MY WIFE RIGHT HERE IN THE A-T-L that being stated i don't see it happening the fans of St.Louis would burn the city down if the Cardinals let Puljos get away but hey stranger things have happened they traded Gretzkey didn't they?

Posted by: dargregmag | February 17, 2011 9:46 PM | Report abuse

He's right about the fact that Lerner can afford it. I guess that was the reference to overpaying Werth, which is the exact thing they could do for Pujols. They could offer him a mint. And get away with it. He'll get some offers, but he's over 30 and a longterm deal isn't really in the cards. Four years. Would be perfect. I think it's entirely possible that they could sign Pujols. They're going to offer him two things he'll be missing in St. Louis - money and publicity. He's gonna be the man to set the tone, whereas if he goes somewhere else, he has to blend in. Big difference performance wise imo.

Posted by: Brue | February 17, 2011 9:59 PM | Report abuse


What we need to do now is to start thinking about what kind of package to assemble that would appeal to the Mariners. There is only one pitcher out there young enough and strong enough and available enough to be worth chasing: Felix Hernandez.

THIS is the better bet, not Cliff Lee.

I have to believe he'll be on the market this August because the Mariners can't afford his next three years of jumped up salary. Not at the direction they're going and losing 100 games a year. They'll need money to sign all their free agents.

The trick will be how do we look as a not-this-year-but-next-year potential contender, competing for him against more likely contenders such as the Yankees and Red Sox and maybe the Dodgers.

But we'll STILL have the money to spend, because even with Werth's salary, we're lower than last year.

If we're going to drop tons of cash on a guy who plays only one day out of every five, let it be Felix.


Posted by: OldDad | February 17, 2011 11:01 PM | Report abuse

"To sign Puljos for a #1 pick (if we finish high enough, more likely a #2 pick) and some of Ted Lerner's money would be a coup."

Can't trade picks in baseball

Posted by: break20 | February 18, 2011 1:51 AM | Report abuse

Redskins fans ... sigh ...

@break20 he is right. They would lose a #1 pick if they signed Pujols? Dude, use the ol' thinking cap right? The Cardinals would most assuredly get a #1 pick as compensation if the Nats signed their guy.

Posted by: periculum | February 18, 2011 1:56 AM | Report abuse

It's possible to turn a team with a healthy income into a small market team - see Angelos, Peter. It's also possible to turn a small budget team into a big money team if you're in a large, wealthy market - see Lerner, Ted. I hope they have seen their mistake in starving the team and therefore their income potential when they could have been the new hot thing in town with the new stadium. They have to spend money to make money. The notion that increasing payroll reduces profits is just wrong if the market is big enough. So yeah, get Pujols, pay Zimm and the youngsters when it's their time, acquire a big money starter, and watch the attendance and TV ratings rise when they're in the playoff hunt.

Posted by: utec | February 18, 2011 5:34 AM | Report abuse

Riiiight. Just like the Wizards were supposed to have been a participant in LeBronapalooza.

I'm all for bringing talent into the fold, but does every single team in DC have to be rumored to sign/trade for/hire the biggest name in their respective sport?

Posted by: BMoreChil | February 18, 2011 6:53 AM | Report abuse

Boswell wrote two years ago that overpaying Pudge was needed to get free agents to take the Nats seriously. This offseason we had Werth take us seriously. He also wrote that overpaying him was the price to get into the regular discussions for top free agents. Yesterday on ESPN's site, they also had a columnist mention the Nats as a possible suitor for Albert, so this isn't just a feel good piece from the local paper. This is what Boswell said actually happening. I don't have high hopes of us picking him up, but it is good to see the national media looking at the Nats differently now. We have left the Pirates and Royals in the rear view mirror and have entered the next tier!

Posted by: captclamdigger | February 18, 2011 7:20 AM | Report abuse

"even when it comes to the possibility of bidding for the best baseball player alive."

When did Willie Mays die?

Posted by: Wooden_U_Lykteneau | February 18, 2011 7:57 AM | Report abuse

A bad idea. Don't do it. Spend it on the budding superstars you already have and try to upgrade the starting pitching. I'm really interested in watching Roger Bernadina this spring. With catching and the infield seemingly solidified for the immediate future, only starting pitching and perhaps the outfield needs to be addressed soon. GO NATS

Posted by: cokedispatch | February 18, 2011 8:15 AM | Report abuse

"To be honest with you as silly as it may seem the Nats ARE only a couple players away from a serious run."

You could add Willie Mays and Henry Aaron in their prime to this squad, and it would still be hard pressed to achieve mediocre status.

And Werth stands a pretty good chance of being the worst free-agent bust ever. You could make a decent argument that he wasn't even the third best hitter on the Phillies.

"With catching and the infield seemingly solidified for the immediate future . . ."

Huh? As of now, there's no first baseman. Espinosa has a great glove, but has yet to prove he can hit. Desmond can hit, but has yet to prove he can play SS adequately. The front line catcher is a fast-fading 39 year-old, backed up by a kid who has yet to prove he can hit ML pitching, and a once-hot prospect coming off a potential career ending injury.

This team has more question marks than an week's worth of "Jeopardy" answers.

Posted by: Fairfax6 | February 18, 2011 8:58 AM | Report abuse

Sorry guys, the Nats aren't going to get AP. The Cards are too smart an organization. He will never actually become a free agent. They'll do the numbers and figure out if they can afford to sign him (say at 275 for 10 years) and, if not, will trade him. They have already started to lay the groundwork with LaRussa's comment: "The union did it"!

The obvious partner remains the Yankees. Trade for Tex and a couple of minor leaguers, maybe a pitcher thrown in (Joba the Hut seems a good reclamation project) for good measure. The Yankees can afford 300/10 and in the AL, Pujols works for the last 3 or 4 years as a DH.

Posted by: mikecatcher50 | February 18, 2011 9:28 AM | Report abuse

Had we signed Lee, we might have an outsiders but realistic chance at attracting AP. But in reality I don't believe there is a chance... which is why we should pursue it anyway. Reason? Strategery. Show the baseball world you are serious by chasing the stars - we showed it when we chased Texiera, we got Dunn, and got Werth. I think it helps signing other (more realistic) FA's in the long run.

Posted by: bsdman | February 18, 2011 10:30 AM | Report abuse

OldDad:

I'll give you the Miracle Mets, and even the Jets in SB III.... but the American colonies ultimately needed France to help them finally drop the hammer... and can we honestly consider the 1966 Texas Western victory over Kentucky as a shock... honestly?

That being said, I'd like to see the original story happen too!

Posted by: bjhex | February 18, 2011 11:10 AM | Report abuse

Welllllllll...

Let's see... The Lerners are baseball's richest owners, with basically an infinite pile of money they could spend even when compared with the richest players' salaries.

There is no salary cap in baseball.

The Washington area is a pretty nice place to live, and Nationals Park is a pretty nice place to play.

C'mon, Albert. Come to the Nation's Capital. We can dangle LaRoche in front of some team with a first-tier pitcher.

Posted by: FergusonFoont | February 18, 2011 11:37 AM | Report abuse

Puljos a Nat, picture that!

Posted by: PublicEnemy1 | February 18, 2011 11:37 AM | Report abuse

I'm a Nats fan and this will never happen. If the Cards truly let him become a F.A., get ready for the stories floated about how the Nats make a serious push at signing him, but fall just short (e.g., Tex, etc.). Not falling for that one again.

Posted by: jsparks | February 18, 2011 11:53 AM | Report abuse

It's insane to say they shouldn't consider signing the best player in the game when he would be a relatively young 32. If you're going to spend money on free agents, the best value is in the best players, IF you have the budget to fill out the roster with the other talent you need to contend.

The Nats get a huge break there because they would have a core group of young players (Strasburg, Harper, J. Zimm, Storen, Desmond, Espinosa, Ramos) who could be major contributors without being overly expensive. Even with two other guys making big money in R. Zimm and Werth, the payroll wouldn't be insane. Plus, you can trade LaRoche for something (a starter?) to flesh out the roster.

Finally, the Nats could have a good sales pitch by the end of this year: "We're close to .500 now and we'll get the best young pitching prospect in baseball back in the same year that we add you. Then we add the best hitting prospect the year after that. We have two good hitters here now to protect you. Our minor league pipeline is good enough to fill out the roster and with you on board, we'll get whatever pitching help we need."

The Nats wouldn't lose Pujols because of money, they'd lose out because he believes he could win a title again somewhere else quicker than here. But I think they'd have a shot at him if they go for it. And they should go for it.

Posted by: baltova1 | February 18, 2011 12:02 PM | Report abuse

You can pull this off Nationals BUT only if it is a 8 yr 25-27M a year. It makes you immediately stronger next year with Strasburg, Harper and other young guns in the wings... it will boost tickets sales adn if you start winning, merch and marketing money.... Ithink it is a good idea only if the money is right.... the 10 year 300 mil is going to kill ANY team out there now.

Posted by: rvanags | February 18, 2011 12:08 PM | Report abuse

The Nats have the money to get Pujols. For all those who say that its a bad idea tying up so much money in one player who is 32, I'd say its only a bad idea Pujols' high salary prevents the Nats from keeping their young stars.

RZimm and Strasburg we know will command $$$ in the not too distant future. Harper and JZimm are also likely to be expensive over the life of any Pujols contract. Gotta hope that at least one of the Storen/Desmond/Espinosa/Ramos/Flores contingent emerges as a genuine star (and hopefully more than just one!)

If we get Pujols but are forced to let our young nucleus go when they start commanding high dollars, then its VERY important that the Nats win before 2014 or so - so in the first two years of the Pujols deal.

But, if the Lerners commit to Pujols AND what it takes to keep Strasburg, the Zimms, Harper, and a couple of the other young guys - then its a great deal. As has been said repeatedly, they can afford it, its just a matter of deciding to do it.

Posted by: natshopemonger | February 18, 2011 12:57 PM | Report abuse

...2013, 2014, 2018, 2025...I felt as if my head were floating in the stratoshpere and I heard nothing but white noise. That's when it burst and I landed back on earth navigating back to the sports front page.

Posted by: richs91 | February 18, 2011 1:20 PM | Report abuse

"It starts with belief. We deserve good players and a good team.

Why not us?"

Actually, it starts with intelligent management that signs and develops talented players.

And the idea that you "deserve" a good team more than fans in other cities is ridiculous.

BTW, in 1969 the Mets had the best pitching staff in baseball, and on the whole the team was actually better than, say, the 1965 Dodgers. As to Super Bowl III, anyone who knew the AFL at all well knew the Jets had a good chance to beat the Colts. That Baltimore squad may have been the most overrated in pro football history.

Posted by: Fairfax6 | February 18, 2011 2:14 PM | Report abuse

I'd love to see the Nationals offer the 10 year $300 million he is looking for and make him say no. This blog is correct, as the Nationals have plenty of payroll flexiblily and a move like this would put them on the map.

Posted by: tcostant | February 18, 2011 2:22 PM | Report abuse

As a bargaining chip to resign with St. Louis maybe.

Posted by: KDSmallJr | February 18, 2011 3:44 PM | Report abuse

"It starts with belief. We deserve good players and a good team.

Why not us?"

-----------------------------------------

"I'll make it." - Jimmy Chitwood

Posted by: ouvan59 | February 18, 2011 4:43 PM | Report abuse

Ignore people with POOPY for brains!

Really.

Posted by: RogerRamjet2 | February 18, 2011 6:29 PM | Report abuse

If Pujols signs with the Red Sox, he'll hit .400. You heard it here first.

Posted by: cbtole2 | February 20, 2011 1:09 PM | Report abuse

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