MT. VERNON —
Are there any St. Louis Cardinals fans who still miss Albert Pujols?
Three years ago the beloved slugger spurned St. Louis and packed his bags for the sun-soaked west coast. He cashed in and spent the last two seasons playing in Los Angeles. He's struggled to regain his overpowering offensive form while his former club hasn't stopped making all the right personnel moves.
Large markets like the teams in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York can throw around inconceivable amounts of money and make mistakes in free agency. Sure if they hurl a bunch of money at a player like the New York Yankees did with Mark Teixeira ($22.5 million) and they don't produce or get injured it hurts, but it's not crippling.
A town like St. Louis doesn't have the same luxury.
Typically, the Cardinals are in the middle of the road when it comes to team payroll. They stay the course of signing several mid-level free agents to modest contracts while developing a consistent crop of young players. The blend of free agents and young talent is the key.
The St. Louis starting lineup that took the field Monday afternoon against the Reds will cost the Cardinals about $54.4 million this season, according to payroll numbers available on the Baseball Prospectus website. A trio of players Matt Holliday ($17 million), Jhonny Peralta (15.5 million) and Yadier Molina ($15.2 million) eat up a large chunk of that number.
Peralta, who the Cardinals brought in from the Tigers, might elicit a bit of stick shock at $15 million, but the St. Louis management was able to front-load the deal. In the final year, Peralta will earn a more manageable $10 million.
Just to put that in a little perspective. Pujols will earn $23 million from the Angels this season. The final year of his deal will pay him a staggering $30 million.