Report: Cardinals made low-ball offer to Albert Pujols

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Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com has the first report on St. Louis’ final offer that Albert Pujols turned down and … well, it’s pretty shocking.

According to Rosenthal the Cardinals wouldn’t go to 10 years and proposed an annual salary that would make Pujols somewhere around the 10th-highest paid player in baseball.

That’s great money of course–Rosenthal speculates that the average annual value was between $19 million and $21 million–but when you offer the best player in baseball the 10th-highest salary in baseball you’re basically asking him to reject it.

Last spring Ryan Howard inked a five-year, $125 million extension with the Phillies and two offseasons ago the Yankees signed Mark Teixeira to an eight-year, $180 million deal as a free agent. Those deals pay $25 million and $22.5 million per season respectively, and there’s absolutely zero reason for Pujols to accept a contract that pays him less per season than two excellent but clearly inferior players at the same position.

And that’s without even bringing Joe Mauer’s eight-year, $184 million deal with the Twins or Alex Rodriguez’s ten-year, $275 million deal with the Yankees into the discussion. Heck, both Derek Jeter and Manny Ramirez snagged contracts that paid $20 million per season a decade ago. Pujols giving the Cardinals some sort of “hometown discount” would be one thing, but for the best player in baseball to accept the third- or maybe even fourth-highest annual salary at his own position is well beyond any notion of loyalty.

Assuming that Rosenthal’s report is correct, it’s awfully tough to blame Pujols for turning St. Louis down and it’s awfully easy to wonder what the Cardinals are thinking.

Why Ryan Zimmerman skipped spring training

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All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.

The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.

It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.

It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.

Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉