Albert Pujols' representation hinted on Friday what their expectations might be for a long-term contract, writes Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Asked about how Ryan Howard's extension would impact Pujols' negotiations, agent Dan Lozano of Beverly Hills Sports Council indicated that Howard's deal wouldn't necessarily be used as a baseline:
"We have to pay attention to any significant multi-year deal, especially one signed by a big first baseman. But the reality is that there are no comparables for Albert. He is on an island by himself."
The 30-year-old slugger said over the winter that he might be willing to give the Cardinals a discount if it helped the team improve, but the Howard deal calls into question what would qualify as a "discount." According to Strauss, rival executives believe the annual value of Pujols' next contract will top Alex Rodriguez's $27.5MM average yearly salary and could approach or exceed $30MM.
Although the Cardinals say they've budgeted a hypothetical Pujols extension into their payroll projections for the next five years, it's unclear exactly what figures they're using. If Pujols receives close to $30MM annually, St. Louis would be paying over $45MM per season to their two stars, Pujols and Matt Holliday. For an organization whose opening day payroll has never exceeded $100MM, that would represent an enormous commitment.