Cards’ strategy in Pujols talks was odd, maybe even insulting

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It probably wouldn’t have mattered anyway because the Angels blew away the competition with their 10-year, $254 million contract offer to Albert Pujols, but it’s now being revealed that the Cardinals’ higher-ups made a number of odd decisions in their negotiations for the first baseman and franchise icon.

Like, for instance, offering him a five-year, $130 million contract as a starting point this winter, down from the nine-year, $198 million bid that was made last spring. And refusing to match the Angels’ 10-year personal services contract that will keep Pujols a member of the Anaheim organization in some capacity for at least the next 20 years.

Maybe these were calculated steps by the Cardinals front office. Perhaps they determined at some point this past season that they didn’t want to get locked into a 10-year deal with a 32-year-old first baseman — which, by most analyses, would be a more-than-reasonable business decision. But the shrewdness may have pushed Albert away, giving him all the more self-justification to chase the highest dollar amount.

Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has more:

The marathon left Pujols drained, admittedly emotional and finally resigned to the fact that Angels’ owner Arte Moreno’s long-distance lightning strike offered a greater sense of belonging as well as more dollars.

“It was about the way he made me feel,” Pujols said. “Arte made me feel like he wanted me to be with the Angels forever. He doesn’t want me to be 37 years old and go somewhere else. … It was about the commitment.”

In the end, the Angels outbid the Cardinals by nearly $40 million. And that’s certainly the primary reason Pujols made the decision to leave for southern California. But any chance of the Redbirds getting a hometown discount was likely tarnished early on by the potentially insulting tactics of the St. Louis front office.

Phillies, Red Sox interested in Carlos Santana

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The Phillies and Red Sox appear intent on pursuing free agent first baseman Carlos Santana, MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reports. Santana rejected a one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer from the Indians on Thursday and is expected to draw widespread interest on the market this winter. The Mets, Mariners, Angels and Indians could make a play for the infielder, though no serious offers have been made this early in the offseason.

Santana, 31, is coming off of a seven-year track with the Indians. He batted .259/.363/.455 with 23 home runs and 3.0 fWAR last season, making 2017 the fourth-most valuable year of his career to date. Although he was primarily stationed at first base over the last year, he could step back into a hybrid first base/DH role with the Red Sox, who are hurting for infield depth with Hanley Ramirez still working his way back from shoulder surgery.

As for Santana’s other suitors, the Mariners are far less likely to pursue a deal after trading for Ryon Healy last Wednesday. Neither the Mets nor the Phillies have a DH spot to offer the veteran infielder, and the Phillies’ Rhys Hoskins appears to be blocking the way at first base. Then again, Santana may not find a more enticing offer outside of Cleveland, where Edwin Encarnacion might otherwise be the club’s best option at first base. During the GM meetings, Indians’ GM Mike Chernoff said he “love to have both [Santana and Jay Bruce] back” in 2018, but hasn’t backed up that love with any contract talks just yet.