In light of Ryan Howard’s contract extension on Monday afternoon, I decided that we need to visit another hot button contract debate, Cardinals first baseman, Albert Pujols. Pujols is set to become an unrestricted free agent after the 2012 season. Is it possible to think that Pujols will shatter Alex Rodriguez’s contract record (10 years/$270 million)? In relation to Alex, what is Albert worth?

AP Photo/Tom Gannam

Pujols is currently playing in his 10th major league season. Since his rookie campaign in 2001, Pujols has averaged 41 HRs, 124 RBis, with a .334 batting average and .427 on-base percentage each season. Wow. In addition to those staggering figures, he has three MVP awards, five silver sluggers, and eight All-Star Game appearances. Pujols is also a superb defender having note worthy Universal Zone Ratings (UZR) of 24.5 (2007) and 11.3 (2008). Since being formulated in 2002, Pujols has had the highest collective WAR (Wins Above Replacement) of 65, roughly adding eight victories alone to the Cardinals total each season.

So how does Pujols stack up to A-Rod after his full nine seasons?

Over his first full nine seasons, Rodriguez averaged 42 HRs, 119 RBIs with a .310 batting average and .390 on-base percentage. Alex had only won one MVP award at the time, but collected six silver sluggers and had eight All-Star appearances. WAR and UZR were not introduced until 2002, so we cannot get a fair long-term assessment between the two players.

I know some people will cry foul that Alex’s numbers were steroid-tainted and I’ll admit that they were. However, based on his ability, he has set the financial bar for all players in the game. Steroids or not, he is still a superior player and will go down as one of the best ever to play the game. Pujols could go down as the best ever…

So how much is Pujols actually worth in today’s market? I don’t think anyone can answer that seriously.   Braves manager Bobby Cox said $50 million dollars because he is twice as good as Ryan Howard. Given Albert’s production at this point in his career, he is more valuable than Alex was at 30-years-old.

We can say with almost 100% certainty that the Yankees will not be a player in the Pujols sweepstakes. The Mets probably won’t be either. If the Cardinals want to resign him, they will have to pay him a ton of deferred money and load it with incentives. They locked up Matt Holliday this past off-season with a nice $120 million dollar contract. According to Forbes, the Cardinals were the 8th-highest grossing team in baseball last year, pulling in $195 million in revenue. Can the Cardinals manage two 17+ million dollar contracts??

Their Options:

Resign Pujols? The words ‘Home Town’ and ‘Discount’ will not be included in the same sentence. If they do re-sign him, they have no chance of retaining Adam Wainwright or Chris Carpenter when their deals are up.
Pujols Walks? They’ll look absolutely moronic.
Trading Pujols? Where’s the equal value?

In conclusion, I really can’t make a fair guess as to how much he’ll get. There’s never been a player in this financial era like him. Just throwing it out there, I’d say 10 years/$300 million. Let Albert set the $300 million precedent in the game. Just as long as it’s not with the Boston Red Sox…

How much is Pujols worth in your opinion? He’ll be 32-years-old when he enters free agency.