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.

Seattle Mariners to make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani

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Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said in a team-sponsored podcast the other day that the M’s will make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani. To that end, Dipoto said that the M’s would be willing to let the two-way star to pitch and to hit, which is something Ohtani is interested in doing in the United States. Not all clubs are likely to let him do this, with most likely seeing him as a starting pitcher only.

Ohtani, who is expected to be posted by his Japanese team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, possibly as early as today, can sign with anyone he wants. He is, however, subject to the international bonus pool caps, so the bids on him will be somewhat limited. The Texas Rangers and New York Yankees have the most money available: $3.535 million for the Rangers and $3.5 million for the Yankees. The Twins ($3.245 million), Pirates ($2.266 million), Marlins ($1.74 million) and Mariners ($1.57 million) are the only other teams with more than $1 million left. Twelve teams — including the Dodgers, Cubs, Cardinals and Astros — are limited to a maximum of $300,000, having met or exceeded their caps for this signing period already.

Ohtani, however, is said to be less motivated by money than he is by finding the right situation. While a lot of guys say that, the fact that Ohtani is coming over to the U.S. now, when his financial prospects are limited, as opposed to waiting for two years when he is not subject to the bonus caps and could sign for nine figures, suggests that he is telling the truth. As such, a team like the Mariners that is willing to allow him to hit and pitch could make up for the couple of million less they have in bonus money to spend.

As for how that might work logistically, Dipoto said that the team would be willing to play DH Nelson Cruz a few days in the outfield to accommodate Ohtani, allowing him to DH on the days he’s not pitching. That might be . . . interesting to see, but given how badly the Mariners could use a good starting pitcher, they have an incentive to be creative.

Ohtani, 23, suffered some injuries in 2017, limiting him to just five starts and 65 games as a hitter. In 2016, however, he hit .289/.356/.547 with 22 homers in 342 at-bats and went 11-3 with a 3.24 ERA, and a K/BB ratio of 146/51 in 133.1 innings as a starter.

Five clubs have more money to spend on Ohtani than the Mariners do. None of those teams are on the west coast, which some Asian players have said in the past they preferred due to faster travel back home. The Mariners, owned for a long time by a Japanese company which still retains a minority interest in the club, and long the home for high-profile Japanese players such as Ichiro and Hisashi Iwakuma, likely have a better media and marketing reach in Japan than most other teams as well, which might be a factor in his decision making process. Is all that enough to sway Ohtani?

We’ll find out over the next couple of weeks.