Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols is dominating the headlines this week, and that probably won’t change in the coming weeks and months until some kind of resolution is reached about his expiring contract.
SI.com’s Jon Heyman reported earlier today that there is “virtually no chance” of Pujols and the Cards finding a middle ground on an extension before the slugger arrives at spring training next Wednesday, February 16. Now Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com is reporting that Pujols has no plans to address the media on his day of arrival either.
That’s Albert’s prerogative, just as it’s his prerogative to seek out as much money as he can possibly find either from the Cardinals this spring or as a free agent next winter. But Pujols set that mid-February deadline two months ago because he wanted to “avoid distractions” while preparing for the 2011 season, and that simply isn’t going to happen.
Cardinals camp will be flooded with reporters on February 16 and they will all want to ask Pujols about his contract status. How many times can one guy respond “no comment” before a chair goes flying?
Even if Pujols makes it through that day without getting frustrated by the throngs of media members who want a sound byte from baseball’s best hitter, the rest of the spring is not going to be a breeze and the regular season will probably be even worse. Reporters who cover road teams are going to ask him about his contract status after every single game and a packaged response may only work for so long.
Albert can probably handle it. The Cardinals’ media relations department will do a fine job of blocking potential problems and keeping things well mannered, but Pujols will soon come to realize that his 2011 spring and summer won’t be distraction-free if he is indeed an impending free agent.
For a guy who likes to keep things close to the vest, this will all be strange territory.
The Giants are finalizing a minor league deal for free agent outfielder Cameron Maybin, according to Andrew Baggarly and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. The team has not confirmed the signing, but it’s in keeping with their stated goal of adding more veteran presence and outfield options to their roster in advance of the 2019 season.
Maybin, 31, appeared in back-to-back gigs with the Marlins and Mariners in 2018. He slashed an underwhelming .249/.326/.336 with four home runs, 10 stolen bases (in 15 chances), a .662 OPS, and 0.5 fWAR through 384 plate appearances for the two clubs, a clear improvement over his totals in 2017 but still shy of the career numbers he posted with the Padres all the way back in 2011. It’s not only his offense that has tanked, but his speed and defense in center field, all of which he’ll try to improve as he jockeys for a roster spot in camp this month.
The Giants’ outfield has been largely depleted of any kind of consistent talent lately, especially taking into account the recent departures of Hunter Pence, Gregor Blanco, and Gorkys Hernández. Even with the acquisition of, say, All-Star right fielder Bryce Harper, there’s nothing standing in the way of Maybin and fellow veteran signee Gerardo Parra grabbing hold of full- or part-time roles this year, though they’ll need to outperform candidates like Chris Shaw, Steven Duggar, Drew Ferguson, Mac Williamson, Austin Slater, Craig Gentry, Mike Gerber, and others first.
In a previous report on Friday, Baggarly revealed that a “handshake understanding” had been established with several veteran players already this offseason, all but guaranteeing them regular starting opportunities over the course of the season. How those agreements will be affected by spring training performances remains to be seen, but at least for now, the Giants appear prepared to give their newest players a long leash as they try to get back on top in the NL West.