Heyman: Cards have “virtually no chance” of deal with Pujols

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Albert Pujols is scheduled to arrive at the Cardinals’ spring training complex on February 16, one week from today. He has asked that all talks involving a contract extension be put to an end by the time he unpacks his things and begins preparing for what could be his final year in St. Louis.

In essence, the Cards have one week to lock up the best hitter in baseball or they will risk losing him to free agency next winter.

The two sides agreed early on to keep details of the negotiations out of the media and that agreement has largely been upheld.  But the clock is ticking louder than ever now and reports, whether true or not, are beginning to stream in.  First there was Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports saying that the Cardinals had not yet made a formal offer to the slugger.  Now SI.com’s Jon Heyman is reporting that there is “virtually no chance” an agreement can be reached by Pujols’ self-imposed deadline.

It’s hard to guess where Brown and Heyman might be getting their information.  Perhaps the Cards’ front office is leaking details in the hope of gaining some kind of leverage that, to this point, they have not had.  Or maybe Pujols’ agent, Dan Lozano, is giving out certain information that could potentially help his client.

Whatever the case, Heyman is hearing from someone and from somewhere that the Cardinals and their franchise player are too far apart at the moment to believe that a deal will be struck this spring.  And Brown pretty much echoed that idea on Tuesday in his column.

Pujols is thought to be asking for a contract similar to the 10-year, $275 million behemoth that Alex Rodriguez is currently operating under with the Yankees.  The St. Louis front office, meanwhile, reportedly wants to keep a deal to six or seven years.  That is quite a gap.

Dodgers plan to tab Clayton Kershaw for Game 1 of World Series

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MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick reports that the Dodgers plan to tab ace Clayton Kershaw for Game 1 of the World Series. Nothing is set in stone yet ahead of Tuesday’s Game 1 of the World Series. In the event Kershaw can’t start Game 1, Rich Hill would start. Otherwise, Hill would start Game 4.

Kershaw, started Game 1 and Game 5 of the NLCS against the Brewers, then closed out Game 7 with a flawless inning. He was hit around to the tune of five runs (four earned) over three-plus innings in Game 1, but rebounded for seven innings of one-run ball in Game 5. He struck out two en route to sending the Dodgers to the World Series in the ninth inning of Game 7.

Kershaw also tossed eight shutout innings against the Braves in Game 2 of the NLDS. Overall, he has a 2.37 ERA in 19 innings this postseason. There was no doubt who would be the Dodgers’ first choice to start Game 1, but it’s a relatively recent situation where the ace of a team also closed out the final game of the previous series.

Hill has put up a 2.61 ERA in 10 1/3 innings this postseason. While he doesn’t have Kershaw’s pedigree, the Dodgers would be confident having him lead off the series. Hill was excellent down the stretch last year, helping the Dodgers reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Astros.

The Red Sox plan to start Chris Sale in Game 1 now that he’s recovered from a brief stint in the hospital due to a stomach ailment. The lefty has a 3.48 in 10 1/3 innings in the playoffs this year. He’s among a handful of candidates for the AL Cy Young award after posting a 2.11 ERA in the regular season, but his lack of innings (158) may hurt him.