Michael Wilbon has a column up over at ESPN today in which he implores the Cubs to go after Albert Pujols in free agency.
It’s fine as far as it goes, but I tend not to like arguments that basically come down to “how big it would be!” for team X to sign player Y and about how players are “iconic.” I suspect that the idea of franchises “making statements” and adding “credibility” to the team is one that gets talked about by writers approximately 1000 times more than it does in real front offices.
One comment he makes, though, has me thinking:
Asking whether the Cubs really should go after Pujols is like asking whether a team should have taken Lou Gehrig at a similar stage of his career. The notion that Pujols would be overpaid in the final two or three years of a 10-year-contract ignores the fact that he’s been underpaid — not just the first few years, but over his entire career so far, even this coming season at $16 million. Every single at-bat of Pujols’ career suggests he has four to five Hall of Fame seasons left, by which time the Cubs could have won, at long last, a World Series.
Icon status aside, do you go 8-10 years for the Gehrig/Pujols player if you may only get five good years? I’m trying to think of examples in which someone has been burned on the tail end of a long term deal but the general assessment was “it was worth it anyway.” Maybe that will happen with A-Rod. I suppose it could happen with Todd Helton. Anyone else? Any candidates?
The risk stuff on a long term deal for Pujols is probably the more interesting to me than even the “where might he end up if not in St. Louis” question. I’m someone who is probably too risk averse in life. It’s just my disposition. But I also understand the argument which holds that avoiding risks often locks in the downside of something in a far more certain way than taking the risk ever would. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, you know.
Pujols might be the one guy I’d take five great years for even if there’s a great chance he gets old fast later and doesn’t earn his considerable keep. But it’s not an easy call. Which is why it’s probably a good think I’m not the GM of a baseball team.