In 2011, Albert Pujols will enter the final year of a seven-year, $100 million contract that he signed prior to the 2004 season. Pujols is set to make $16 million next season. However, he will certainly make much more than that in 2012. But how much more?
Jon Heyman reports that Pujols and the Cardinals will discuss an extension soon. Pujols is reportedly seeking a deal similar to the 10-year, $275 million deal (average annual salary of $27.5M) that Alex Rodriguez signed before the 2008 season. Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt responded by saying that the Yankees would take back that deal if they could, suggesting A-Rod was grossly overpaid (he was).
Meanwhile, Sabernomics thinks Heyman is underestimating Pujols’ value, based just on the growth of revenues and salaries in general. They speculate that Pujols is worth $40 million per season.
That would be a hell of a chunk of salary for a team that usually has a payroll south of $100 million ($93.5M in 2010).
So what is Pujols worth?
Well let’s take a look at what he has been worth to the Cardinals under his current contract…
As we can see, in six of the seven seasons, Pujols has been one of the top three position players in baseball and has averaged a value of 8.3 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) or about $226.1 million. In other words, Pujols’ production has already more than doubled the value of the contract.
For comparison, Rodriguez has been worth an average of 6.3 WAR over the same time period and about $169.0 million.
Does that mean Pujols is worth A-Rod money? Not really.
In the last seven seasons, Pujols has been worth an average of $32.3 million to the Cardinals. And at age 31 in 2011, Pujols has already peaked as a player and will likely start showing a decline in the near future. And even if the value of a win jumped to $5 million* in the next 5-6 seasons, Pujols will at best be worth about $30 million per season.
So Pujols isn’t worth $40 million per season, even if we consider the growth of MLB revenues. But it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to say he deserves a contract similar to Rodriguez. Maybe just for fewer years.
*The value of a Win has risen from about $3M to about $4M in the last 6-7 years.