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.

Evan Longoria: “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base.”

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The Rays were busy over the weekend, trading starter Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, designating All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, and then picking up C.J. Cron in a deal with the Angels. The Rays saved about $4 million — Odorizzi’s $6.3 million less Cron’s $2.3 million salary — and picked up a prospect. They’re still on the hook for Dickerson’s $5.95 million salary until they can find a trade partner, which seems likely.

Those are some head-scratching moves if you’re a Rays fan or a member of the Rays. Dickerson hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs, 62 RBI, and 84 runs scored in 629 plate appearances last season, part of which resulted in his first trip to the All-Star Game. Designating him for assignment is strictly a financial move, assuming he can be traded. The Rays are currently operating with a payroll below $70 million. This comes just a week and a half after Rays ownership proposed the public footing most of the bill for the club’s new stadium. And the Rays had traded third baseman Evan Longoria — then the face of the franchise — to the Giants earlier this offseason.

Longoria expressed sympathy for Rays fans for having to put up with this. Via Andrew Baggarly, Longoria said of the curious Dickerson move, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base. … I’m not going to take too many shots but it’s pretty obvious that guy is a valuable player and didn’t deserve to be DFAd. Corey was our best player last year.”

Longoria isn’t quite on the money there. By WAR, Dickerson ranked fifth among position players on the team, according to Baseball Reference. FanGraphs is also in agreement. Still, it’s indisputable that Dickerson, who turns 29 years old this May, more than pulled his weight. The Rays do not have a surfeit of starting outfielders, so it wasn’t like they were making room for other capable players. Mallex Smith, who put up a .684 OPS in 282 PA last year, is slated to start in left field at the moment. Designating Dickerson for assignment, as well as trading Longoria and Odorizzi, were simply cost-cutting decisions.

The Rays’ M.O. has been part of the problem leading to the current stagnant free agent market (sans Eric Hosmer‘s eight-year deal on Saturday). Teams like the Rays, Phillies, Reds, and Tigers have been explicitly putting out non-competitive teams in order to facilitate a rebuilding process. Longoria is right to express sympathy for Rays fans, who see their favorite team worsening a roster that went 80-82 last year. The Rays haven’t finished at .500 or above since 2013 and doesn’t figure to halt the streak this year.