Published in: St. Louis Post Dispatch
Author: Joe Strauss
Cardinals president Bill DeWitt III this morning acknowledged both the organization's desire and its limits in negotiating a contract extension with first baseman and three-time Most Valuable Player Albert Pujols.
Speaking to a group of administrators, faculty and business students at Webster University, DeWitt allowed that "there's a question about what percentage of your payroll you can give one guy. That's the fundamental question with (Pujols)."
DeWitt cited the fact that only one team — the 2007 Colorado Rockies — has reached the World Series while committing 20 percent of its payroll to one player. It is widely assumed Pujols will command an average annual value well beyond $20 million per season in any extension while DeWitt stated following this morning’s presentation that he does not envision payroll growing much beyond $100 million.
"We'll definitely push, scratch and probably get beyond our comfort level and try to make something work with him," DeWitt said. "I'm hoping that's good enough. He knows the iconic players of any generation typically stay with one team if you look at the history of baseball."
Pujols is signed for two more seasons, including a team option for 2011. However, El Hombre has so far rejected overtures by the club to open talks on what team chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. has described as an extension to keep Pujols "a Cardinal for life."
The club believes the window before next season the optimum time to negotiate an extension. Pujols, who currently enjoys a partial no-trade provision in his contract, achieves full no-trade protection when he reaches 10 years' major-league service time after the 2010 season. The Cardinals would also hope to back-load any extension, allowing themselves some salary relief in the deal's early years.
"He's done his part," DeWitt said of Pujols' prolific consistency through his nine-year career. "We just need to sit down with him. I think a key part of it is the trust factor. I don't think you can underestimate that."
Pujols has repeatedly noted this year a need for assurance that the club will remain competitive. However, DeWitt noted the club's commitment to Pujols will directly impact its ability to surround him with top talent.
The discussion takes place while the club also attempts to retain free agent left fielder Matt Holliday, considered the market's most attractive talent. Signing Holliday and Pujols would virtually assure committing more than 40 percent of payroll to two players.
"We can pay Albert $95 million per year and give $5 million to the rest of the guys, but how good would we be? We'd have minor leaguers out there and Albert," DeWitt said. "We can make it work. It's just at what point does it become counterproductive at a competitive standpoint in terms of one player. That's the balancing act. That's not a set number.
"But we do know at a certain kind of range on an annual basis it gets beyond a rational decision. I'm hopeful. I think he understands."
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