Cubs lose out by Cardinals not signing Pujols

There is a lot of rejoicing in the NL Central today now that Albert Pujols has signed with the Los Angeles Angels. The division will be freed of its most feared player, one that had punished them all to the tune of 40-plus home runs and 100-plus RBIs in a little more than 170 games against each team.

It is slightly sad, because one of the greatest players in baseball history will be leaving the only team he played for. It seemed like Pujols could potentially be like Tony Gwynn or Cal Ripken, and stick with the Cardinals. It feels like it could have cemented an even bigger legacy for him. The legacy needs no help, but there is something about being known for wearing just one cap in a career.

It is also slightly sad, because this seems like bad news for the Cubs.

Not that the Cubs should have gone out on a limb and signed Pujols. That would have been a mistake.

Pujols seemed to be only looking for a deal with at least ten years, and that would have put him on the Cubs until he turned 40, something the Cubs are all too familiar with in contracts over the last few years. Making that mistake could have crippled Chicago just as it is seeking to rebuild.

Yes, flags fly forever, but the Cubs are not contenders in 2012, and probably not in 2013. After that, Pujols will be 34, and the push he might give the Cubs would have diminished in each season.

It should be disappointing for the Cubs because the same effect that the Cubs dodged by not signing Albert could have been stuck on the hated Cardinals.

For the next two season, the Cubs could get bashed by the St. Louis. They could have let Albert run all over them, as he has in his career with a .302/.405/.616 line. They could have suffered quietly while building for the years to come.

And just when the Cubs would be primed to strike, they could look down I-55 and see the Cardinals trying to figure out where to stick Pujols.

St. Louis wouldn't have been able to trade Pujols without his consent. And they would have had to deal with a big backlash should they have tried to bench him, similar to what the Yankees are dealing with in an aging Derek Jeter.

Pujols might not just drop off a cliff in terms of ability in two years. He will probably still be a  good hitter and fielder. But it would be seriously unlikely that his dominant presence would be the same.

Even with Pujols at his best over the past four seasons, the Cubs had managed to go 29-32 against St. Louis. With a diminishing Pujols and some holes opening on the Cardinals roster, that could easily have been turning things in Chicago's favor come 2014, or 2015.

With Pujols on the Angels, none of these things happen, and the Cubs suddenly face a very dangerous competitor for any first base talent.

Plus the Cardinals will be slightly worse now, when the Cubs are least likely to contend for the division, and can start making moves unburdened by the Pujols contract. There is a lot more money to spend, and a lot of ways to improve the team now.

The Cubs are could be looking at a very strong Cardinals team in three years, one that won't just roll aside for Theo's dream machine.

So while it is slightly against what you would expect, hoping the Cardinals could have made the big move, and possibly long term mistake, on Albert Pujols was the right situation for the Cubs future.

Agree? Disagree? Let Ben know at bmiraski at mrisports.com.

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This page contains a single entry by Benjamin Miraski published on December 8, 2011 2:25 PM.

Thinking Cubs 2012, a closer look at Carlos Marmol was the previous entry in this blog.

Brewers get a steal with Aramis Ramirez is the next entry in this blog.

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