It's up to DeWitt and Mozeliak to determine exactly how much is worth sacrificing in order to keep Pujols in St. Louis (Source: Jeff Roberson/AP Images).

The Ultimate Sacrifice

Before I get too far ahead of myself, I’d like to start off by saying that after writing this article, I will try my absolute best to avoid talking about the Albert Pujols contract situation until the 2011 season comes to a conclusion. Why, you ask? Quite frankly, speculation is not going to accomplish anything. There’s nothing that I can add to this story that hasn’t already been said, so why would I continue to slap other Cardinals fans in the face with a constant dose of negativity? Everyone seems to be getting tired of hearing about the possibility of losing the best player in baseball, myself included. So, for one more time, bear with me as I try to bring some closure to this ongoing process.

When I asked in a previous post what the ultimate outcome of this contract ordeal would be, most of you seemed to think that the Cardinals would reach a deal with Pujols and his agent before the spring training deadline. Well, obviously that didn’t happen. I can’t really blame you, because I didn’t see any scenario in which Albert would become a free agent either. Maybe we all took things a little for granted and let our optimism get the best of us. Either way, it is what it is.

Going into negotiations, owner Bill, DeWitt and general manager John Mozeliak knew that, in order to keep Mr. Pujols in St. Louis, several significant sacrifices would need to be made. Hell, even Matt Holliday took it upon himself to offer to make a sacrifice on the organizations behalf. Talk about a genuine teammate who cares more about winning than he does money. That’s my kind of player.

Considering the fact that Albert Pujols is the face of MLB and the greatest Redbird since Stan Musial, the sacrifices would not be small by any stretch of the imagination. In short, this situation has strong implications that may end up making or breaking the franchise in the future.

Now that step one of this process has come and gone, what options do the Cardinals have left?The way I see it, there are still several options available depending, of course, on how determined DeWitt and Mozeliak are to keep this guy in town.

First of all, the organization has made it very clear to Pujols’ agent Dan Lozano that the front office is always open for business. Contract talks have been cut off for the time being, but I wouldn’t count out the possibility of some mid-to-late season discussions? That is probably the best case scenario for the Cards at this point.

Assuming Pujols stays true to his word, he will become a free agent at the end of the year. However, the Cardinals should not wait until that time to layout their overall plans. If DeWitt decides that it is neither realistic nor possible to keep Pujols around, then a decision in the near future is critical. Why? Because this would open up trade possibilities. Much like the recent situation with Carmelo Anthony in the NBA, the Cardinals could find a team looking for some extra help down the stretch and trade Pujols at the deadline. This way they could at least get something in return and avoid flat out losing the game’s best player while gaining nothing. This all depends on the willingness of Pujols to sign elsewhere mid-season. Maybe it’s a stretch, but it is certainly interesting to think about.

Finally, if Pujols does end up reaching free agency, the Cards will be forced to compete with the highest bidders in baseball. If the price tag is 10-years and $300 million, St. Louis has virtually no shot unless they sacrifice much of the talent around the perennial MVP.

I guess what I’m getting at here is that it is by no means the end of the world if the Cardinals do not sign Albert Pujols. Would I be disappointing to see him leave? Of course I would. However, I recognize that at some point, you have to draw the line. In a perfect world, Pujols would sign for about eight years and $200 million, but that’s just not going to happen.

So, for now, we must sit back and watch this whole thing play out over time. After all, that’s about the only thing we can do. If only I had a time machine to advance to the end of the season.

Tags: Albert Pujols Bill DeWitt Dan Lozano Free Agency John Mozeliak Matt Holliday Trade Deadline

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