Does Pujols’ self-imposed deadline really matter?

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Albert Pujols told the Cardinals a couple of months ago that he wants all negotiations involving a possible contract extension to stop once he arrives at spring training so that he can avoid distractions and focus on getting ready for the start of the regular season. That self-imposed deadline is just three days away and most national baseball reporters are hearing that talks are not going well.

Now comes the question: does that deadline really matter? If the Cardinals don’t strike a deal with baseball’s best hitter by Wednesday, will they no longer be allowed to make offers? Will Albert’s agent, Dan Lozano, screen any and all phone calls from the Cardinals’ front office after February 16?

St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz, for one, thinks the deadline means next to nothing.

Miklasz wrote in his Sunday column titled “What Matters Most To Pujols?” that the Wednesday deadline is “bogus” and that there is “no need to have a 19th nervous breakdown over it.” More from Berine:

If the deadline passes without a contract in No. 5’s hands, there’s no legitimate reason to assume it means the likely ending of the Pujols-Cardinals union. It doesn’t mean that all hope is lost. It doesn’t mean Pujols is going to bolt as a free agent after the season and jump to the enemy Chicago Cubs.

This spring-training deadline is merely the first checkpoint.

That’s all. Nothing more.

Miklasz makes a great point. Pujols has, time and time again, expressed a desire to remain in St. Louis for the rest of his career. He has a charitable foundation there, a restaurant, a couple of kids in school, and his wife’s family is from nearby Kansas City. If the Cardinals give him what he wants near the end of spring training, or even during the regular season, what’s to say he doesn’t accept?

Diamondbacks, T.J. McFarland avoid arbitration

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Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY Sports reports that the Diamondbacks and reliever T.J. McFarland have avoided arbitration, agreeing on a $1.45 million salary for the 2019 season. McFarland, in his third of four years of arbitration eligibility, filed for $1.675 million while the Diamondbacks countered at $1.275 million. McFarland ended up settling for just under the midpoint of those two figures.

McFarland, 29, was terrific out of the bullpen for the D-Backs last season, finishing with a 2.00 ERA and a 42/22 K/BB ratio in 72 innings. While the lefty may not miss a lot of bats, he does induce quite a few grounders. His 67.9 percent ground ball rate last season was the third highest among relievers with at least 50 innings, trailing only Brad Ziegler (71.1%) and Scott Alexander (70.6%).

McFarland was dominant against left-handed hitters, limiting them to a .388 OPS last season, but the D-Backs deployed him nearly twice as often against right-handed hitters, who posted an aggregate .764 OPS against him. It will be interesting to see if the club decides to use him more as a platoon reliever in 2019.