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$300 Million Man?

By Mark Ashby Vaughan

Will Albert Pujols be the first $300 million dollar man in baseball when he signs a new contract?

It has been reported that Albert has already turned down a $200 million offer from the Cardinals. If Pujols doesn’t sign an extension to his current contract as he has promised not to do during the upcoming season, then he will become a free agent at the end of the 2011 season.

I doubt that the Cardinals will have the money to re-sign him since it has been reported that he wants a 10-year contract.

The question becomes, who else will want to sign him for $300 million for ten years? The Yankees and Red Sox are set at first base for quite some time and they are two of the biggest spenders in MLB. The Cubs, Angels and Dodgers may be willing to make a ridiculous offer to Pujols’ agent.

A word of caution: Any team who offers Albert a 10-year contract for that kind of money will be paying him for his past performance instead of what he will be able to do for them on the field. The simple fact of life is that baseball players begin to decline after the age of 35. Albert will be 32 years old going into the first year of his next contract. That means that Albert’s numbers will be solid for only the first half of a 10-year period, assuming, of course, that he isn’t injured. Perhaps that is enough for some teams. I wouldn’t pay it, however, if it were my money.

As you can see from the statistics below, there is a consistent drop in numbers for players after the age of 35. The great Henry “Hammerin’ Hank” Aaron is the closest to keeping his numbers up to his most productive years, but even he saw a dip in his output. Additionally, Aaron hit a total of just 22 homers over his last two years of play combined when he was ages 41 and 42.

The numbers are for ages 25 to 35/35 to 40:

Willie Mays HR 39/21 RBI 107/70 AVG .312/.280
Frank Robinson HR 31/17 RBI 100/52 AVG .303/.252
Babe Ruth HR 47/30 RBI 135/100 AVG .355/.324
Reggie Jackson HR 30/25 RBI 93/75 AVG .278/.239
Ernie Banks HR 32/19 RBI 100/67 AVG .278/.255
Mike Schmidt HR 37/22 RBI 100/80 AVG .269/.273
Hank Aaron HR 38/36 RBI 112/96 AVG .312/.294

* Mike Schmidt played till the age of 39.

I am not saying that Albert won’t be a productive player from ages 36 to 40, but I certainly expect his numbers to drop. Beyond 40 – I would expect a significant drop in performance as he goes the way of all flesh.

The only players who maintained outstanding numbers after the age of 35 are those who have been accused of using performance enhancing drugs. Prior to the 1990s, “getting better with age” applied only to wine. Will a team be willing to pay $30 a year for a player giving them perhaps 80 to 70 percent or less of his best years?

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