Albert Pujols is worth more to the Marlins than to the Cardinals. Sound crazy? Only if you believe in the gilded mythology of an iconic player spending his career with one team. Such franchise icons make for nice narratives, but not always great business sense. Does it make sense for the Cardinals, with no escape hatch of the DH rule, to pay a hitter $25 million a year until he’s 42 years old? Only if you believe in the sentimentality of turning Pujols into the next Stan Musial — forgetting, of course, that Musial never was a free agent. Ask the Twins about the cost of keeping Joe Mauer a Twin for life and the Phillies about Ryan Howard.
The more cold-blooded view is that the Cardinals have a loyal fan base that would survive a Pujols exit, a talented core of players even without him in a winnable division, the post-Pujols money to improve the team elsewhere (hello, Jimmy Rollins?) and a long-term vision that wouldn’t suffer from the difficulty of carrying the huge contract of an aging player.