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Posted: Friday September 25, 2009 12:30PM; Updated: Friday September 25, 2009 1:01PM
Jon Heyman Jon Heyman >

Can the Cardinals really lock up both Pujols and Holliday?

Story Highlights

Can St. Louis Cardinals lock up Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday?

Houston a long list of managerial candidates, including many former players

Indians GM Mark Shapiro is now being pressured to fire Eric Wedge; more notes

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Matt Holliday and Albert Pujols
Albert Pujols (right) and Matt Holliday (left) form the best 3-4 combination in baseball, but will the Cardinals be able to keep both?
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The St. Louis Cardinals managed to go an almost unprecedented 4-for-4 with their acquisitions this summer, helping them to run away from their archrival Chicago Cubs in the NL Central. Their hot streak might also have raised the confidence of their front office to extreme heights.

How else to explain club owner Bill DeWitt's stated winter objective to sign both their two superstars, Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday. "That's the goal," DeWitt told, "to lock up both of them."

DeWitt, leader of one of baseball's best organizations, also said, "We want to make sure Albert's a long-term, lifetime Cardinal."

As if a winter in which they will try to placate, satisfy and bring back managerial icon Tony La Russa and his annoyed pitching coach cohort Dave Duncan (Duncan was upset to see son Chris traded away) wasn't challenging enough, DeWitt is proposing an additional two-part trick that carries an extraordinarily high degree of difficulty.

"No chance can they keep both," one competing GM opined.

It isn't often a team confronts a contract situation with two more years to go. But Pujols is a special situation. "Two years is a long time, but two years can go fast," DeWitt said.

Pujols, who is make $16 million in 2010 under his current contract and another $16 million on a 2011 club option, is expected to seek at least a contract extension with a salary comparable to Alex Rodriguez's contract that's likely to pay him $30 million annually. Pujols' agent, Danny Lozano, didn't return a call Thursday, but it's illogical to expect Pujols to seek anything less than baseball's top salary, especially coming off perhaps his best season in a career of only excellent seasons. He's hitting .330 with 47 home runs and 129 RBIs.

Holliday, the top free agent this winter (just ahead of Jason Bay and John Lackey) who's hitting .356 since coming to St. Louis, is thought to be interested in a deal comparable to the $180 million, eight-year contract signed by Mark Teixeira last winter. DeWitt repeated their desire to re-sign Holliday, as well. "Our goal is to keep Matt Holliday, no question about that," DeWitt said.

The Cardinals, whose midsummer deals for Holliday, Mark DeRosa, Julio Lugo and John Smoltz all paid off, have relied for years on star players loving perhaps the country's best baseball town to the point of leaving money on the table to stay in St. Louis. But to think they can or will spend close to $50 million per season on two players seems like a tough assignment, especially with ace pitcher Chris Carpenter's own contract up in a year.

But perhaps it doesn't matter whether anyone thinks it can be done. Negotiating with the two stars simultaneously actually makes sense for a variety of reasons, including ...

• By getting counter-offers from both stars, they can judge the reasonableness of both against each other.

• They avoid insulting Pujols by making a higher accompanying offer to him at a time they're likely to offer Holliday a deal to beat Pujols' current $16 million salary.

• They show both they're interested in retaining the best 3-4 combination in baseball, and perhaps give each an even better feeling about the team's chances (of course money is always assumed to be the key factor in any negotiation, but both stars have to relish having the other around).

• They show their great fans how serious they are.

• They show La Russa and Duncan how serious they are.

Regarding La Russa, DeWitt said that he remained "hopeful and optimistic" that he'll stay.

DeWitt didn't volunteer his opinion of their chances to accomplish the Daily Double of Pujols and Holliday. But if they can do it, they'll surprise a lot of folks around baseball.

Acta gets interview; more big names to come for Houston

A person familiar with the Astros' plans says they will interview Manny Acta for their managerial opening. But if the Houston Chronicle's candidate list has any legs, he'll have plenty of company. It's a veritable potpourri of former Astros stars and current Astros coaches and decision-makers.

The one person long seen as a viable candidate is Jim Fregosi, who doesn't have ties to the Astros but has ties to Astros GM Ed Wade, who like Fregosi spent a good while in Philly. Fregosi, a former manager of the Angels, White Sox, Phillies and Blue Jays, has been working hard for years as a scout, most recently with the Braves. Fregosi has been a candidate in many places before, and it's somewhat surprising he hasn't gotten back into uniform.

Other interesting candidates include Astros icons Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell (their agent, Barry Axelrod, declined comment on any possible interest when reached by phone until real contact has been made) and former Astros catcher Brad Ausmus, now a Dodger. Astros owner Drayton McLane has always loved Bagwell and Biggio, and Dartmouth man Ausmus is seen as a rare person who could jump from his playing career right into a managing career. Also mentioned by the paper were interim manager Dave Clark, and Astros coaches Al Pedrique and Tim Bogar. Any and all should be forewarned that Astros management thinks they have a superb team, which doesn't make things easy.

The other possibility, and it's probably a long shot (though the possibility has been rumored), would be to hope La Russa and Duncan bolt the Cardinals and they can steal that vaunted tandem from the best team in the NL Central. That would be a coup, as it's hard to imagine La Russa ditching a great situation in St. Louis for a team with troubles.

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