Baseball executives think Pujols will make $30 million a year. I think he could get more

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I did a Pujols post and an Heyman post, so now here’s Heyman on Pujols:

Baseball executives agree on a couple things regarding superstar Albert Pujols, the Cardinals and their future together.

1.
Pujols and the Cardinals have a very good chance to stay together
beyond 2011, when his first nine-figure contract expires, and…

2. Pujols will get his $30 million a year, give or take a few pennies.

I used to ignore these sorts of “I polled a bunch of nameless baseball executives” stories, but now that I’m paid to read and write about baseball I’ve been paying pretty close attention to them this winter. One of the things I’ve noticed is that the nameless executives tend to undershoot what seem like reasonable salaries. This has mostly come in the arbitration context, but it has applied to free agents too.

While $30 million is a redonkulous amount of money, I can’t help but wonder if that’s still (gulp) low in the case of Pujols.  Alex Rodriguez made $32 million last year and will do so again this year. He’ll make $31 million next year.  After that the base dollars go down a touch, but then the incentives start kicking in, which could have him making more than $300 million over the life of his ten year deal.

Maybe Pujols won’t push as hard as Boras/A-Rod did, and maybe the Cardinals won’t cave the way the Yankees did, but I think a case could be made for Pujols getting more than $30 million a year.

What happens with all the players the Braves lost yesterday?

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Yesterday’s unprecedented sanctions leveled on the Atlanta Braves hit them pretty hard, but it also turned a dozen players into free agents. What happens to them now? Who can sign them? When? And for how much?

First off, they get to keep their signing bonuses the Braves gave them. It wasn’t their fault the Braves messed up so it would make no sense for them to have to pay the money back. As for their next team: anyone can, theoretically, sign them. As far as team choice, they are free agents in the most narrow sense of the term.

There are limits, however, because as young, international players, their signings are subject to those caps on each team’s international bonus money which were imposed a few years back. Each team now has a “pool” of finite dollars they can spend on such players and, once that money is spent, teams are severely limited as to what they can offer an international free agent. Each summer the bonus pools are reset and it starts anew.

Which, on the surface, would seem to create a problem for the 12 new free agents, seeing as though a lot of teams have already spent much if not all of their July 2017-18 bonus pools. The good news on that, though, is that Major League Baseball has made a couple of exceptions for these guys:

  • First, the first $200,000 of any of the 12 former Braves players will not be subject to signing pools, so that’s a bit of a break; and
  • Second, even though these players will all likely be signed during the 2017-18 bonus pool period, teams have the option of counting the bonus toward the 2018-19 period. They can’t combine the money from the two periods, but they can, essentially, put off the cost into next year for accounting purposes.

Which certainly opens things up for clubs and gives the players more options as far as places to land go. A club can decide whether or not the guys on the market now look better than the guys they’ve been scouting with an eye toward signing after July 2018 and get a jump on things. Likewise, teams don’t have to decide whether or not to take a run at, say, Shohei Ohtani, burning bonus money now, or instead going after a former Braves player. Ohtani’s money will apply now, the Braves player can be accounted for next year.

The new free agents are eligible to sign during a window that begins on December 5 and ends on Jan. 15. If a player hasn’t signed by then, he can still sign with any club but cannot get a bonus. If a player hasn’t signed anywhere by May 1, 2018, he has the option of re-signing with the Braves, though they can’t pay the guy a bonus either.

Ben Badler of Baseball America has a rundown of the top guys who are now free agents thanks to the Braves’ malfeasance. Kevin Maitan is the big name. The 17-year-old shortstop was considered the top overall international free agent last year, though his first year in the Braves minor league system was less-than-impressive. There are a lot of other promising players too. All of whom now can find new employers.