Cardinals met with Pujols’ agent again on Wednesday

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The Cardinals opened this week’s Winter Meetings by meeting with Dan Lozano, the agent for All-World slugger Albert Pujols.  According to B.J. Rains of FOX Sports Midwest, the Cards met with Lozano again on Wednesday.

Lozano is not talking to the media and Cardinals GM John Mozeliak was not willing to divulge any details about the two meetings when asked Wednesday, but it’s safe to assume that loose terms have been exchanged and that both sides have a good idea of what’s going to take place in the coming weeks.

SI.com’s Jon Heyman reported Tuesday that Pujols is seeking “A-Rod money.”  But it’s not exactly clear what that means.  Does he want a 10-year contract worth $275 million — the exact deal that Alex Rodriguez signed in December of 2007 with the Yankees?  Or is he simply requesting a similar average annual salary?

The Cardinals certainly don’t want to shell out a 10-year contract to Pujols, who turns 31 in January, but they should be more than willing to make a seven-year pitch with a $27.5 million annual salary.  That comes out to a seven-year, $192.5 million commitment, which is plenty reasonable for a guy with a 1050 career OPS and three MVPs.  Pujols still has a ways to go before his playing career is through, but only Barry Bonds, Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth and Ted Williams have better career marks in the OPS department to this point.

Pujols has expressed a desire to put negotiations to a halt once spring training begins in order to avoid an ongoing distraction, so the Cards have until now and late February to put a serious package together.  Otherwise, the 21st Century’s best hitter is going to get a whiff of free agency.

And he might really like what he smells.

The Nats are going to sign Francisco Rodriguez for some reason

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The Nationals bullpen is a tire fire. They’re about to add another tire. Per Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports, Washington is about to sign free agent reliever Francisco Rodriguez.

K-Rod was released by the Tigers last week after posting an ERA of 7.82 over 28 appearances this season. He has a 1.658 WHIP, is allowing 11.9 hits per nine innings and is posting his highest walk rate in five years. Also worth noting: the Detroit Friggin’ Tigers decided that he was not good enough to be in their bullpen.

So, yeah, good luck with that Washington.

The Giants chemistry is suffering because a guy they all hated is gone

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I’ve spent years arguing with people about team chemistry. You know the battle lines on all of that now: people who talk a lot about team chemistry tend to attribute winning or losing to good or bad chemistry, respectively. I tend to think that characterizing chemistry is a retroactive exercise in which teams that win are happy and then cite their happiness as the reason and vice versa. Jim Leyland agrees with me, for what it’s worth, so I’m pretty happy with my take.

Not that I’ll claim a monopoly on wisdom here. I’ve never played on a professional baseball team. I don’t know what it’s like to try to prepare to play baseball while surrounded by jackwagons who don’t get along with anyone. I can’t imagine that makes life easier. Indeed, based on the testimony of players I have spoken to, I will grant that there is at least some intangible yet real benefit if everyone is happy an gelling. I dismiss team chemistry arguments for the most part, but if I ran a team I’d at least try to get rid of bad seeds if their bad seeding was not outweighed by seriously outstanding on-the-field play. You want your workers happy, folks.

All of which makes me wonder what the heck to do about this passage from Ken Rosenthal’s latest column. It’s about the reeling San Francisco Giants. They have all kinds of issues — their offense is putrid, their pitching isn’t much better and they’ve been without their ace most of the year — but today Rosenthal looks at their team chemistry. It’s a quiet and subdued clubhouse, he notes, and it has a lot of people wondering if something is wrong there. What could it be?

Sandoval, who was an often noisy and boisterous presence during his time with the club, departed as a free agent after that season. Pence has suffered a number of injuries in recent years and declined offensively, making it difficult for him to be as vocal as he was in the past. Some with the Giants muse that the team even misses Angel Pagan, who created an odd sort of unity because most of the players disliked him.

Read that last sentence again. And then go on with your talk about how team chemistry is a legitimate explanatory concept regarding what makes teams win or lose as opposed to a post-hoc rationalization of it.

Not that it’s not a good article overall. There’s some interesting stuff about the Giants’ bullpen culture. And, of course, we now know why no one signed Pagan last winter.