Albert Pujols

Cardinals’ offer to Albert Pujols likely to remain in the range of $22 million per year

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The Cardinals tried to lock up first baseman Albert Pujols last offseason with a nine-year offer worth between $22 million and $22.5 million annually.

Since the day that proposal was rejected by Pujols and his agent Dan Lozano, talks have not restarted. But they will in early November, when baseball’s best hitter will be just steps away from free agency.

Will the Cardinals’ front office change its tune? Will the offer improve? And which of MLB’s other 29 teams are going to be making bids?

Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has consistently provided the most accurate details on the matter, and ran a column Saturday with a couple of notes on the looming negotiations.

  • The Cardinals are “currently inclined” to remain within the salary framework of the original offer ($22M-$22.5M annually) and may even “tighten” its length.
  • That stance could change if another team makes a better bid.
  • The Cubs, Rangers, Angels, Marlins and Nationals are currently being “cited” as the other potential suitors.

In other words, it’s going to be a lot like every other big-time free agent sweepstakes. If the Cards are outbid, they’ll up the ante. But they’re not going to stretch their payroll without a good reason. And with the Yankees and Red Sox likely sitting this one out, perhaps a $200 million deal will actually do the trick.

Keep in mind that Ryan Howard, a .274/.368/.560 career hitter and poor defender, is set to earn $25 million a year between 2014 and 2016. Pujols is a .329/.421/.618 career batter and a worthy two-time Gold Glover.

Astros avoid arbitration with Mike Fiers

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 17: Starting pitcher Mike Fiers #54 of the Houston Astros walks to the dugout after pitching an inning during a game against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on September 17, 2016 in Seattle, Washington. The Astros won the game 2-1. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
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The Astros avoided arbitration with pitcher Mike Fiers, agreeing on a $3.45 million salary for the 2017 season, per Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle. The right-hander was in his first of three years of arbitration eligibility.

Fiers, 31, made 30 starts and one relief appearance for the Astros in 2016. He finished the year with a 4.48 ERA and a 134/42 K/BB ratio in 168 2/3 innings.

Fiers had a much better showing in 2015 as well as in limited action in 2014, so the Astros are hoping he rediscovers that effectiveness going forward. He’ll slot into the back of the starting rotation.

Raines to wear an Expos cap, Pudge to wear a Rangers cap on their Hall of Fame plaques

1990:  Outfielder Tim Raines of the Montreal Expos in action. Mandatory Credit: Otto Greule  /Allsport
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There is little if any controversy to be had about the caps this year’s inductees will wear on their Hall of Fame plaques, but in case there was any doubt at all, it was put to rest this afternoon at the Hall of Fame press conference: Tim Raines will wear a Montreal Expos cap and Ivan Rodriguez will wear a Rangers cap. Jeff Bagwell, of course, never played for a team other than the Houston Astros at the big league level.

Though Raines had some good seasons with the Chicago White Sox and though he helped provide a nice kick start to the Yankees dynasty in the mid-1990s, his best seasons, by far, took place while he was an Expo. It’s also the case that the bulk of his Hall of Fame push came from Expos fans. He was particularly boosted by Jonah Keri, who recently wrote a book detailing the history of the Expos. So, yeah, that’s easy.

Rodriguez played 13 of his 21 years with the Texas Rangers, including his MVP 1999 season. He did have some notable years elsewhere, particularly in Detroit where he remains a fan favorite, but it was always going to be the Rangers for him, one would think. Maybe a slight, slight chance that he’d do the blank cap thing, Greg Maddux-style, but smart money was on the Rangers.

With Bagwell, the only question is which Astros cap he’ll wear. There are a couple of applicable ones: the brick red star, which he wore to the World Series in 2005. There’s also the shooting star cap he wore during his best seasons and which Craig Biggio’s plaque displays. He was around for the classic “H” over the star look, but he was just a kid then, so I doubt he’d wear it.

Anyway, sorry to the Marlins fans who wished that Raines and Pudge would wear the fishy-F.