Pujols wants A-Rod deal and more notes from GM meetings
Yankees confident Derek Jeter will stay; Prince Fielder likely won't be traded yet
Albert Pujols, the St. Louis Cardinals slugger, will be a free agent next offseason
Closers Jonathan Papelbon and Francisco Cordero are on the trade market
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt, who may be the best businessman in a room full of millionaires and billionaires here at the Waldorf Astoria at Disney World, indicated he believes the Yankees would retract Alex Rodriguez's monstrous deal if they could. There was no word from Yankees, but DeWitt was really talking about his own situation with his own superstar anyway.
DeWitt's remark is only meaningful because Albert Pujols has been looking to repeat Rodriguez's contract, which guarantees the Yankees' slugger $275 million but could actually wind up costing New York an extra $30 million in home run milestone monies for a $305 million total. Pujols is said by people close to the situation to want a 10-year deal like A-Rod got for about $30 million a year like A-Rod, and is just about the same age as Rodriguez when he signed that contract at age 32 in 2007 that will take him through age 42. Rodriguez is often credited for arranging that deal. If he did, he's a heck of a lot smarter than your average ballplayer.
In any case, DeWitt, who miraculously recovered the vast majority of the $150 million purchase price of the Cardinals by selling the parking garages for approximately $90 million and is one of baseball's few billionaire owners, made it clear he doesn't want to repeat the Rodriguez deal. After saying he couldn't imagine the Yankees were happy with that deal, he didn't react positively to my prediction to him that Pujols would get $240 million for eight years. The $30 million a year is what he questioned more than the eight-year term, though he didn't really OK the eight years either (he had no reaction to that).
DeWitt said the Cardinals did plan to talk to the most prominent 2011-12 free agent between now and shortly after the New Year.
Judging by how far apart the sides could be, this negotiation could take awhile. Though ultimately, it probably gets done. Pujols took a safe deal last time at $100 million for seven years in 2004, and the great likelihood is that DeWitt and Pujols work it out, whether or not the two sides see eye-to-eye right now. One competing exec predicts Pujols will stay in St. Louis for $25 million a year for six or seven years. If so, DeWitt has repeated his parking garage coup.
Two prominent closers, Boston's Jonathan Papelbon and Cincinnati's Francisco Cordero, have hit the trade market. And their teams may be willing to pay part of their salaries depending on what they can get back. Word around here is that the market for Papelbon is very thin due to three factors: 1) he had an off year, raising concerns about whether he's burning out, 2) he's arbitration eligible and could top $10 million, and 3) he's a free agent after next year.
If the Red Sox are able to trade him, they may jump into the free agent closer market, which means Rafael Soriano could be in play for them. But it's more likely that they tender Papelbon a contract and keep him as their closer for one more year.
The Braves made a nice deal for a middle-of-the-order bat, taking Dan Uggla off Florida's hands for utilityman Omar Infante and lefty reliever Mike Dunn. The Braves loved the fact that Uggla has batted .390 over the last three seasons at Atlanta's Turner Field, and they badly needed to balance a lefty-heavy lineup. By their own admission, the Braves had a "popgun offense" in the playoffs last year when Martin Prado and Chipper Jones were out with injuries but are still short offensively even with those two returning in 2011. Jones and Braves All-Star catcher Brian McCann were said to love the move. And what's not to like?
The Marlins, meanwhile, in effect "saved'' $30 million on a day when they traded Uggla, who had recently rejected a four-year, $48 million offer from them but signed catcher John Buck to a three-year, $18-million contract. They may try to put that money into their pitching. Marlins people were said to be shocked that Uggla didn't take the deal, and $48 million does seem like a fairly healthy offer for a very good yet one-dimensional player.
Let's hope the Marlins don't look at it as found money, and indeed do spend the rest of their "savings.'' Buck is a nice start. But they have many more bucks yet to spend.
Yankees people don't seem to think there's any chance Derek Jeter will surrender his captaincy and legacy by leaving New York. Yet they say they are still willing to "overpay'' him. It may indeed be an overpay based on his sagging 2010 stats that included a career-low .270 average, but while some Yankees people won't acknowledge Jeter's value to the business, they need him back for the sake of the multi-billion dollar franchise.
It's an unusual situation -- both sides need each other. Yet neither seems to be making a strong move to get close to an agreement. It will be interesting to see how long the dance lasts. But the prevailing opinion is that the Yankees will offer him a three-year deal and are not likely to give much if any pay cut from the almost $19 million he's averaged the past 10 years, which could put the total deal at around $57 million for three years. A friend of Jeter's said he didn't think Jeter would be pleased with anything in the $50 million neighborhood. But so far, it doesn't seem like the team is likely to venture too far from that area.
While there's bound to be interest in Jeter if ever a point comes where talks have stalled, other executives around baseball still can't see the Yankees icon leaving the pinstripes. "What's he going to do, go to Baltimore?'' one competing exec asked, sarcastically.