What is Albert Pujols really waiting for?

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Great piece in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch today by Bernie Miklasz wondering what Albert Pujols really means when he says he wants to wait to sign an extension with St. Louis so he can make sure “he’s playing somewhere that’s competitive.”  Bernie’s take: whaddaya mean? What team has been more competitive than St. Louis over the past decade? You got the Yankees, the Red Sox, and that’s kind of it, isn’t it?  St. Louis is certainly in the upper tier of competitiveness, so what kind of commitment does Pujols really want?

Miklasz speculates that it may have to do with whether or not the Cardinals will give Jose Oquendo the managers’ job after Tony La Russa retires because (1) they are close; and (2) nobody was cooler in the 1980s than the play-every-position genius that was Jose Oquendo. OK, that last part is more my thinking than Albert’s, but I’m sure he’d agree.

Anyway, if I’m the Cardinals brass, I’m probably a bit peeved by this. Despite living in a small, relatively depressed city, the Cardinals always put a quality product on the field and do way more to keep the mojo flowing than a lot of teams in much bigger cities.  They’d never get into a public spat with someone as important as Pujols over this, but you gotta have a lot of chutzpah to suggest that the Cardinals, of all teams, have something to prove in the commitment-to-winning department.

And yes, even someone as otherwise as admirable like Pujols is capable of chutzpah.

Robinson Cano hit his 300th home run last night

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Last night Robinson Cano hit a solo homer in the ninth inning of the Mariners’ loss to the Texas Rangers. It was his 22nd on the season. Though it was insignificant to the outcome of that game, it was significant to Cano: it was his 300th career homer.

While we’ve become accustomed to not caring much about home run milestones south of, say, 500, 300 homers for Cano is a big deal, as he’s only the third second baseman to cross that threshold in baseball history. The other two: Jeff Kent, at 377, and Rogers Hornsby at 301.

Cano, who turns 35 next month, has a career line of .305/.354/.495 and 1,179 RBI, 512 doubles and 33 triples to go with those bombs. He’s in his 13th big league season and still has six more years left on his deal with the Mariners. He’s averaged 24 homers a year since coming to the Mariners. While he’ll obviously trail off at some point — and while great second baseman’s have this weird habit of just suddenly falling off a cliff — it’s highly likely that he’ll finish his career as the all-time home run leader among second baseman. If he remains healthy he should also get over 3,000 hits in his career.

Cooperstown, here he comes.

Reds sign catcher Tucker Barnhart to a four-year deal

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Mark Sheldon of MLB.com reports that the Reds have signed catcher Tucker Barnhart to a four-year contract extension. The terms: $16 million total, with a $7.5 million club option for the 2022 season that has a $500,000 buyout. He also received a $1.75 million signing bonus.

The deal buys out all three of his arbitration years — he was going to be eligible for the first time this offseason — and the first year of his potential free agency. The club option buys a second. Barnhart made $575,000 this season.

Barnhart, 26, is finishing his second season as the Reds primary catcher. This year he’s hitting .272/.349/.399 with six homers and 42 RBI in 113 games. For his career he has a line of .257/.328/.366 in 330 major league games. His real value is defensive, however. He leads the National League in caught stealing percentage and number of base stealers caught (31-for-70, 44%) and leads all players at any position in the league in defensive WAR according to Baseball-Reference.com.