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Pujols deciding on more than his future as a player

Albert Pujols, one of the best players in baseball, is deciding between $200 million deals from the Maimi Marlins and the St. Louis Cardinals, his current team. What can each provide Pujols–during his playing days and beyond?

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According to Walters, who sometimes acts as an economic consultant for teams including the Baltimore Orioles and the Boston Red Sox, such provisions are usually reserved for fan favorites who have already been with their teams for several years. “It’s common for popular local personalities to be welcomed into the fold. The teams want you around to promote the product, be an adviser. He cites “Mr. Cub” Ernie Banks, who played his entire career with the Chicago Cubs and continued on coaching, as an example.

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“But with a free agent, you are just establishing the relationship, and it doesn’t always work out.”

The Texas Rangers, for example, pinned their franchise’s hopes on shortstop Alex Rodriguez in 2000 with a 10-year, $249 million contract, the second largest in baseball history.  But Rodriguez was traded to the Yankees in 2004, and the Rangers had to pay $67 million of the 179 million left on the contract. In 2009, the firm holding a controlling interest in the team went broke, and the Rangers had to be put up for auction.

The Marlins need big name players like Pujols and Reyes to fill the seats in their new, $515 million taxpayer funded stadium. It’s quite the spending spree for the franchise, formerly a penny-pinching small market outfit best know for dismantling and selling off the bulk of its 1997 World Series champion team. But both Walters and Johnson point out that there is no guarantee that fans will warm to big name players, especially if they don’t win. Rodriguez in Texas, or more recently, LeBron James and company on the Miami Heat in the NBA, are prime examples.

Ironically, post-play provisions would make more sense for Pujols in St. Louis, where he has won two Word Series rings and is adored by an enthusiastic core of Cardinals fans. It still might happen; both Walters and Johnson are betting on the three-time national league MVP to stay in St. Louis. “The betting has to favor the Cardinals at this point,” says Walters. “He has a loving relationship with what are arguably the best fans in baseball. If the money’s close, I think he’ll stay at home.”

UPDATE: According to ESPN, the Miami Marlins have reportedly withdrawn their offer to Pujols after signing pitcher Mark Buehrle, though Pujols is still fielding offers from teams other than the Cardinals.

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