Albert Pujols a Dodger? No. An Angel? Maybe.
The day's biggest baseball story originated in Jupiter, Fla., where the St. Louis Cardinals announced they had been unable to reach agreement on a contract extension with Albert Pujols. Since Pujols had told the Cardinals he would cease negotiations once he reported to spring training, he is likely to file for free agency this fall.
That would not preclude him from re-signing with the Cardinals. The free agency dynamic could be interesting, however, since the game's biggest spenders appear set at first base for years to come -- the New York Yankees with Mark Teixeira, the Boston Red Sox with Adrian Gonzalez and the Philadelphia Phillies with Ryan Howard.
Could Pujols sign with the Dodgers? Even before Frank McCourt entered divorce court, he never had signed any player to a $100-million contract. Dan Lozano, the agent for Pujols, issued a statement Wednesday in which he called Pujols "not only the best player in baseball ... but an iconic figure in sports."
That translates into Pujols wanting to be the best-paid player in baseball, and one chart shows that even $100 million would not get the Dodgers anywhere close to signing him. Alex Rodriguez, currently the game's highest-paid player, is making $275 million over 10 years.
Would the Angels enter the fray for Pujols? That's doubtful, given the recent comments of owner Arte Moreno.
Moreno, like McCourt, never has signed a player to a $100-million contract. The Angels were willing to top $100 million for Carl Crawford last winter, but they were not willing to match the winning bid -- $142 million, from the Boston Red Sox.
"It's crazy," Moreno told The Times in December. "I paid ($183 million) for the team."
Moreno also said, "Seven years on a player is a huge risk financially." He reiterated that sentiment last month: "For me, six- and seven-year contracts are tough."
However, Moreno has worked long and hard to build the Angels' value. In 2003, after the Angels lost 85 games and finished 19 games out of first place, Moreno spent $145 million on Vladimir Guerrero, Bartolo Colon, Kelvim Escobar and Jose Guillen.
The Angels won the American League West in five of the next six years, and they did not have another losing season until last year. If the Angels post another losing record this year, and if Moreno is concerned the loyal fan base he has nurtured might be eroding -- and with it the Angels brand -- he might well make a play for Pujols.
And here is another reason to watch Moreno next winter: The Texas Rangers have a fat new television contract, and a pile of money that was not used to sign Cliff Lee. What if the Angels' division rivals -- and the defending American League champions -- go all in on Pujols?
-- Bill Shaikin
Photo: Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols. Credit: Tom Gannam / Associated Press