Albert Pujols, the free-agent game changer

From Anna McDonald at on December 2, 2011, with quotes from SABR President Vince Gennaro:

Branch Rickey once said “Baseball is a game of inches” and that is true. It is also a game of decisions and unpredictability. Hundreds and thousands of decisions over the course of a season by players, managers, coaches, owners and everyone involved in the game ultimately produce a baseball season no one could ever anticipate. Every year the beautiful, unpredictable seasons we witness begin with the offseason free-agent market.

This year, the biggest name is Albert Pujols. At 31, it’s his first foray into the free-agent market.

Imagine if, after his first four seasons in the majors, instead of signing a seven-year extension in 2004 for $111 million, Pujols had instead signed a shorter deal.


“There’s something about that first bout of money,” said Vince Gennaro, author of “Diamond Dollars: The Economics of Winning in Baseball” and a consultant to major league teams. “We’ve seen Ryan Braun and Evan Longoria do it. In this case, [Dan Lozano, agent for Pujols] probably could have gotten Albert his 30 or 40 million and then looked for the kill — whereas, he took a much, much, bigger security blanket.”

If Pujols had signed a four-year deal following the 2004 season, he would have been eligible for free agency at the age of 27, which is where Prince Fielder is now. At the age of 27, Pujols had six All-Star Game appearances, one MVP award, one Rookie of the Year award, two World Series appearances and one World Series championship. In the same categories, Fielder has three All-Star game appearances and two top-three MVP finishes.

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Originally published: December 2, 2011. Last Updated: December 2, 2011.