St. Louis Cardinals: What if Pujols had re-signed?

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The St. Louis Cardinals have not had a bona fide offensive superstar since Alert Pujols’ departure following the 2011 World Series. Where would the organization be if Albert were still in St. Louis?

Albert Pujols has hit 560 home runs over 15 Major League seasons. Back in April of 2014, he hit number 500 in an Interleague match up against the Nationals in the nation’s capital. With a repeat performance of his 40-homer 2015 campaign, Albert would hit his 600th this year.

Similarly, with 2,666 career hits to his name, Albert could reach 3,000 by the end of 2017.

Albert is a surefire first ballot Hall of Famer. He’s hit more than 40 home runs seven different times in his career. When you consider the DH possibilities that playing for the Angels affords him in the latter stages of his career, 700 homers isn’t outside of the realm of possibility.

There’s little doubt that the Cardinals have missed his production dearly. I mean, look at these numbers from his time in St. Louis…

YearLgGPAABRH2B3BHRRBIBBBAOBPSLGOPSOPS+Awards
2001 ★NL1616765901121944743713069.329.403.6101.013157AS,MVP-4,RoY-1,SS
2002NL1576755901181854023412772.314.394.561.955151MVP-2
2003 ★NL1576855911372125114312479.359.439.6671.106187AS,MVP-2,SS
2004 ★NL1546925921331965124612384.331.415.6571.072173AS,MVP-3,SS
2005 ★NL1617005911291953824111797.330.430.6091.039168AS,MVP-1
2006 ★NL1436345351191773314913792.331.431.6711.102178AS,MVP-2,GG
2007 ★NL158679565991853813210399.327.429.568.997157AS,MVP-9
2008 ★NL14864152410018744037116104.357.462.6531.114192AS,MVP-1,SS
2009 ★NL16070056812418645147135115.327.443.6581.101189AS,MVP-1,SS
2010 ★NL15970058711518339142118103.312.414.5961.011173AS,MVP-2,GG,SS
2011NL147651579105173290379961.299.366.541.906148MVP-5
STL (11 yrs)17057433631212912073455154451329975.328.420.6171.037170

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table

Outside of two solid seasons from Allen Craig right after Albert’s departure, the Cardinals haven’t come close to approaching the production that Albert churned out at first base, year after year.

Undoubtedly, the offense has suffered since Albert took off. But, would the organization have experienced the same levels of success from 2012 on, had they shelled out something in the ballpark of $210 million to the aging superstar?

Would the roster be as balanced as it is if Albert were still around? Depth has been the Cardinals’ greatest asset during their recent run of success. What would that depth look like with Pujols remaining in St. Louis?

Immediately, you have to wonder where the money would have come from in 2014 to pay Adam Wainwright $97 million over five years. What about the $75 million going to Yadier Molina through 2017?

The Cardinals might have been able to afford one of those guys. Likewise, it’s just as possible that the Cardinals wouldn’t have been in a position to extend competitive offers to either guy.

Could you imagine this team without Yadi, or Waino, or both?

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Oh, by the way, the Cardinals received two compensation picks in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft when they lost Pujols. With the 19th pick, they took Texas A&M right-handed pitcher Michael Wacha.

Seventeen picks later, they took outfielder Stephen Piscotty from the University of Stanford at 36th overall.

So essentially, what we are looking at (worst-case wise) is trading Yadi, Waino, Wacha and Piscotty for Albert. Those are just immediate, in-your-face names that might not be around if Albert were still here.

What would that starting rotation look like without Wainwright and Wacha included? If the Cardinals could not have afforded Yadi after 2012, would the pitching staff have performed like the past three seasons?

This is all speculation, of course, but I highly doubt that the Cardinals would have won the National League in 2013. I doubt the Cardinals would have made NLCS appearances each season from 2012-2014. I doubt they would have won 100 games last year, and they would not have won the Central.

The Cardinals would not have signed Carlos Beltran for the 2012-2013 seasons. A gimpy Albert didn’t put up the numbers that Beltran did those two seasons, and he would have cost the Cardinals at least $7 million more annually.

I credit John Mozeliak for drawing a line in the sand with his offer back in 2011. He made the most difficult decision of his General Manager career by choosing not to go into a bidding war for Pujols. He made a more than respectable offer for Albert’s services, and he came up with a pretty darn good contingency plan for Albert’s departure.

I was as emotional as the next Cardinal fan when I realized that Albert would no longer play in St. Louis. I cannot stand the fact that he is reaching all of these Hall of Fame numbers with the Angels. But, we have to be satisfied with the body of work in St. Louis since Albert took off, even if there haven’t been any rings yet.

With Albert just passing the half way mark on his deal, the jury is still out on whether it was a good move or not by the Angels. As much as I would have loved to see Albert’s number retired in St. Louis one day, the last half-decade of Cardinal success has been a pretty good consolation.

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