Albert Pujols is scheduled to arrive at the Cardinals’ spring training complex on February 16, one week from today. He has asked that all talks involving a contract extension be put to an end by the time he unpacks his things and begins preparing for what could be his final year in St. Louis.
In essence, the Cards have one week to lock up the best hitter in baseball or they will risk losing him to free agency next winter.
The two sides agreed early on to keep details of the negotiations out of the media and that agreement has largely been upheld. But the clock is ticking louder than ever now and reports, whether true or not, are beginning to stream in. First there was Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports saying that the Cardinals had not yet made a formal offer to the slugger. Now SI.com’s Jon Heyman is reporting that there is “virtually no chance” an agreement can be reached by Pujols’ self-imposed deadline.
It’s hard to guess where Brown and Heyman might be getting their information. Perhaps the Cards’ front office is leaking details in the hope of gaining some kind of leverage that, to this point, they have not had. Or maybe Pujols’ agent, Dan Lozano, is giving out certain information that could potentially help his client.
Whatever the case, Heyman is hearing from someone and from somewhere that the Cardinals and their franchise player are too far apart at the moment to believe that a deal will be struck this spring. And Brown pretty much echoed that idea on Tuesday in his column.
Pujols is thought to be asking for a contract similar to the 10-year, $275 million behemoth that Alex Rodriguez is currently operating under with the Yankees. The St. Louis front office, meanwhile, reportedly wants to keep a deal to six or seven years. That is quite a gap.
Major League Baseball announced on Wednesday that former Red Sox DH David Ortiz and Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant won the 2016 Hank Aaron Award in their respective leagues.
Ortiz, 40, flourished in his final season, batting .315/.401/.620 with 38 home runs and 127 RBI in 626 plate appearances during the regular season. His .620 slugging percentage, 1.021 OPS, and 48 doubles led the majors while his 127 RBI led the American League. Ortiz also won the Hank Aaron Award back in 2005.
Bryant, 24, is the likely winner of the National League Most Valuable Player Award as well. He hit .292/.385/.554 with 39 home runs and 102 RBI over 699 plate appearances. He also led the league by scoring 121 runs. Bryant is the first Cub to win the Hank Aaron Award since Aramis Ramirez in 2008.
Last year’s winners in the AL and NL, respectively, were Josh Donaldson and Bryce Harper.
If you’ve happened to catch any of the coverage of the 2016 postseason on Fox and FS1, you’ve heard former Yankees DH Alex Rodriguez as part of an analyst panel with host Kevin Burkhardt and former major leaguers Pete Rose and Frank Thomas. Rodriguez has drawn rave reviews not just for passing a rather low bar we set for former athletes-turned-commentators, but because he’s adding real insight drawn both from his playing days and from doing research.
Indeed, Rodriguez is taking his new job as an analyst quite seriously, Newsday’s Neil Best reports. Bardia Shah-Rais, the VP of production for Fox, said of Rodriguez, “This is not a hobby for him. It’s not a parachute in. He’s invested. If we have a noon meeting, he’s there at 11:30 a.m. He’s emailing story ideas in the morning. He wants research. He’s almost all-in to the point where it’s annoying.”
Rose also praised Rodriguez, saying, “You’ve never been around a guy who prepares more than Alex does. Alex does his homework. He knows the game. He understands players. He’s into the deal . . . Frank does a great job in preparation, too. I’m the only one that don’t prepare as much as these two guys. I don’t know if that’s because I can’t write or what it is. But these guys do their homework and they ask questions and they ask the right questions and then you put that in with our experience, all the things we’ve been through and how good we get along with each other, that’s why it shows up on the TV.”
Rodriguez, who hasn’t officially retired despite not having played since the Yankees released him in mid-August, wouldn’t commit to more TV work beyond this year’s postseason.