The mere thought of adding Albert Pujols to the middle of the Yankee order to is drool worthy. At 31-years-old, Pujols is clearly the best hitter on the planet and arguably the game’s most complete player. In ten full seasons, Pujols has hit no fewer than 32 home runs nor driven in fewer than 103 runs. Pujols boasts a crazy impressive career line of .331/.426/.624 while he has collected three MVP awards. If Pujols and the Cardinals do not agree to a contract before Spring Training, the slugging first baseman will hit the free agent market after the season. Due to the Yankees limitless financial resources and current multi-year contract obligations, would the Yankees even consider signing the best player on the planet?
Before we start to think about signing Pujols in a logical context, let’s just hypothetically set the Yankee lineup with Pujols in the fold.
This may be the scariest lineup I’ve ever seen. In 2010, the Yankees scored a league-high 859 runs. How many more could they score with Pujols in the fold? More specifically, the middle of the lineup is just terrifying. Pujols, Teix, and A-Rod have combined for six MVPs, 19 Silver Slugger awards, and have crushed 1,296 home runs. Add in the emergence of Cano, the quality play of Swisher, and the speed at the bottom of the order. This lineup would constantly give pitchers headaches and is a true version of ‘pick your poison’.
However, this isn’t MLB 11: The Show and we’ve seen this same story play out before.
After crushing 54 home runs and driving in 156 runs during the 2007 season, a 31-year-old A-Rod decided to opt-out of his ten-year, $252 million contract that he originally signed with the Rangers back in 2001. The Yankees berated Rodriguez, accusing him of disrespecting the Yankee brand. A month later, he signed the largest contract in baseball history with the Bombers. Since signing that contract, A-Rod hasn’t played more than 138 games in a season and has visited the disabled list in each of his first three seasons of the new deal. Not even two years after inking that deal, Rodriguez had hip surgery and has dealt with the lingering effects of that injury. Rodriguez has still been very productive, hitting 95 home runs and posting a line of .286/.384/.533. With seven years and roughly $180 million remaining on A-Rod’s contract, the Yankees must hope that the 35-year-old third baseman holds up and they can at least break even on their investment.
No one will argue that Rodriguez isn’t an elite player. However, this is just a prime example of the risk associated with giving 30-year-olds massive contracts when decline is expected. Contracts are essentially based on past production. Rodriguez played at least 154 games from 2001-2006, hitting no fewer than 35 home runs. Yet after three DL trips and dealing with a balky hip from 2008-2010, Rodriguez clearly isn’t the player he used to be and is slowly starting to enter the decline phase in his career.
While Pujols hasn’t dealt with a balky hip, he has had elbow issues for the past few seasons. He had surgery back in 2009 and dealt with some elbow discomfort at the end of last season. Pujols has played through the pain though, playing at least 148 games per season since 2007. No one denies Pujols’ talents on the field, but the Yankees handing out another 8+ year contract to a non-pitcher makes virtually no sense. Plus, history shows us that decline is expected once a hitter reaches 35-years-old. Add in the fact that both Pujols and Teixeira are Gold Glove first basemen and moving one off first ultimately diminishes their value. Want to move one player to third base and slide A-Rod to DH? Well, neither Teix nor Pujols has played a position other than first base since 2004. Teixeira has played 99 career innings at third base, but the Yankees aren’t paying him to play third base or DH.
The Yankees have the financial resources to bring Pujols to the Bronx, but it makes little sense. The Yankees would essentially have $90 million annually wrapped up in three, 30-something corner infielders until 2016. That fact alone is enough to turn the Yankees away. The Yankee lineup with Pujols in it would have the chance to be one of the all-time best. However, from a business standpoint, it doesn’t make sense for the Yankees to take on the risk of three massive contracts, all of whom play corner infield positions.