The Albert Pujols deadline was a big mistake

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Here’s Joe Strauss’ latest on the State of the Pujols negotiations.  Not much new in there other than the tidbit that Pujols’ agent Dan Lozano and Cadinals’ GM John Mozeliak are “in regular contact.”

All of this stuff — the deadline, the moving of the deadline for Musial’s thing, etc. — just makes me think that if it was Albert Pujols’ goal to limit the distractions of his contract status, he was probably way better off not setting a deadline at all.

Really: if it was wide open and fluid and talks could theoretically go on during the season, how many people would be writing stuff about his contract status right now?  Not many, I imagine.  It would be relegated to paragraph five of standard spring training stories, and would be tossed off with ” … and winning this year takes on greater importance given that it could be Albert Pujols’ last season in St. Louis.  That will be decided this winter, however. For now, the Cardinals look like the should challenge for the division crown if …”

Instead this is being watched like someone’s execution.  Deadline on Tuesday! No, wait! The governor called and has delayed it until tomorrow morning.  Pujols was just fed his last meal!  He’s walking out now! No contract has been signed!  Protesters are holding a vigil outside the gates of the stadium!

Just because negotiations proceed doesn’t mean that they need to be a distraction to the player.  The agent can see to that. Hell, the agent could just humor the team all summer and never bother the player at all.  Maybe that’s not ideal, but if, as Pujols says, avoiding distractions is the name of the game, such a course couldn’t have been worse than setting this ultra-dramatic cutoff tomorrow.

Phillies owner John Middleton is in Las Vegas with Bryce Harper

Bryce Harper
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Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports that Phillies owner John Middleton flew to Las Vegas for a meeting with Bryce Harper on Friday. Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, it’s “more of a meet-and-greet than a sign-a-deal” affair, but as the club is still at the forefront of trade rumors involving the All-Star slugger, there remains a possibility (however slight) that something could be completed in the days to come.

Even now, the Phillies aren’t alone in the race to sign Harper, but recent rumors have helped whittle down the competition from five or more teams (Phillies, Nationals, White Sox, Giants, and Padres) to three strong contenders. The Giants are said to be interested in a lucrative short-term deal with the outfielder, while the Padres remain in the conversation despite inking Manny Machado to a mammoth 10-year, $300 million contract this week. It’s not yet clear just how far either team would go to outbid Philadelphia as talks with Harper intensify.

As for the Nationals and White Sox, the former officially bowed out earlier today, and MLB Network’s Jon Heyman adds that the latter won’t make a strong play for Harper as they feel the asking price and competing offers are “getting too high” for the 26-year-old’s services. If a mystery team is still in the mix, there’s been no word on their standing with Harper in the last month or so.