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Will Kemp deal affect Pujols signing?

Posted Wednesday, November 16, 2011, at 8:39 AM

Despite all of the financial woes the Los Angeles Dodgers, they surprised the sports world (somewhat) by throwing a monster contract at star center fielder Matt Kemp this week.

According to reports, Kemp signed an eight year contract worth a total of $160 million, or an average of $20 million per year.

While on a normal year, this would affect the St., Louis Cardinals about as much as a change in college rugby rules, this is no normal year. For the first time in his 11 year career, Albert Pujols is a free agent. Anyone out there, from New York to San Diego is more than welcome to throw as much money at the Cardinals icon as they choose.

While Kemp is not a perfect comparison, he is a superstar and franchise icon. His deal on Monday helps to secure the fact that superstar players are getting longer deals now.

While seven year deals have been common for quite some time (see Matt Holliday), numerous eight and nine year deals have been offered to stars in an effort to keep them with their franchise. This year, the Cardinals look to be in the same boat.

I originally felt like that Pujols still asking for a nine-year contract would be a stretch after this year, but according to ESPN this morning, the Miami Marlins offer is believed to be nine years as well.

That offer, as well as Kemp's contract, play in Pujols favor. If someone else offers that length and a cash strapped franchise offers almost that much to its own star player, then mark my words, the Cardinals will be signing a contract that long as well.

The concern with the nine or ten year deal is the fact that in professional sports, you are always one injury away from a career in television baseball commentary. With a normal player, I would think a contract of that length was absolutely absurd. With Albert, however, I'm leaning more toward slightly crazy.

The first five or six years I have few concerns. During that period, I might even believe he's worth the $30 million he is reportedly seeking. The years I'm concerned with are seven, eight and nine. Or should I say 39, 40 and 41.

Here's my suggestion on how to retain both Albert and the competitiveness of the club later in his career.

First, accept the fact that your payroll might require several million more dollars. I'm thinking of a payroll in the neighborhood of $115-20 million instead of $110.

Second, offer Pujols his nine years, but on a graduated scale. Offer him $30 million for six years. For the remaining three years, have his salary go down by three million per season in an effort to begin bolstering the club for the post-Albert era. That would be a total contract worth $252 million. It's not the largest contract in history, but it does give him the highest annual salary in baseball history. He does deserve that for what he has accomplished in a Cardinals uniform.

If the money is a problem, break some new ground and offer a small equity stake in the team to cover the additional money. That would be a lasting investment for him that would continue even after he hangs up his cleats and calls it a career.

Only time will tell what the Cardinals and the rest of Major League Baseball see as his value. One thing is for sure, though, whether it's higher or lower than expected, it will be a lot of money.

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Corey Noles, staff writer for The Daily Statesman and Editor of The North Stoddard Countian, is the author of a regular baseball/St. Louis Cardinals column and also uses his blog to sound off on various happenings in sports. He also operates a weekly baseball mailbag column.

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