According to Rosenthal the Cardinals wouldn’t go to 10 years and proposed an annual salary that would make Pujols somewhere around the 10th-highest paid player in baseball.
That’s great money of course–Rosenthal speculates that the average annual value was between $19 million and $21 million–but when you offer the best player in baseball the 10th-highest salary in baseball you’re basically asking him to reject it.
Last spring Ryan Howard inked a five-year, $125 million extension with the Phillies and two offseasons ago the Yankees signed Mark Teixeira to an eight-year, $180 million deal as a free agent. Those deals pay $25 million and $22.5 million per season respectively, and there’s absolutely zero reason for Pujols to accept a contract that pays him less per season than two excellent but clearly inferior players at the same position.
And that’s without even bringing Joe Mauer’s eight-year, $184 million deal with the Twins or Alex Rodriguez’s ten-year, $275 million deal with the Yankees into the discussion. Heck, both Derek Jeter and Manny Ramirez snagged contracts that paid $20 million per season a decade ago. Pujols giving the Cardinals some sort of “hometown discount” would be one thing, but for the best player in baseball to accept the third- or maybe even fourth-highest annual salary at his own position is well beyond any notion of loyalty.
Assuming that Rosenthal’s report is correct, it’s awfully tough to blame Pujols for turning St. Louis down and it’s awfully easy to wonder what the Cardinals are thinking.