Albert Pujols to command $300 million?

St. Louis Cardinals Albert Pujols sits in the dugout watching the scoreboard in the bottom of the ninth inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Busch Stadium in St. Louis on September 4, 2010. Cincinnati won the game 6-1. UPI/Bill Greenblatt

The St. Louis Cardinals were hoping to retain Albert Pujols with a hometown discount. The only problem is that Pujols and his agent feel they’ve already given the club a discount and now want to cash in.

According to ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark, Pujols and agent Dan Lozano opened the negotiation process with the Cardinals by asking for $300 million over 10 years. The first baseman is coming off a seven-year, $100 million contract that was club-friendly given his production, so now Pujols is hoping the club will return the favor.

As Stark points out, there has never been a $300-million man in baseball history, which includes Alex Rodriguez (who signed a 10-year, $275 million contract in 2008). But given what Pujols has accomplished throughout his career and what he means to the Cardinals’ organization, what’s to say he shouldn’t become the first player to receive a $300 million deal? If there were only one player to make that much, shouldn’t it be Albert Pujols (the best pure hitter in the game)?

The Cardinals have built their team around Pujols, so losing him really isn’t an option. And if they’re not willing to pony up the $300 million, that doesn’t mean another team won’t.

Now obviously, we have no idea whether the Cubs’ new ownership is ready to start signing off on $300 million contracts. But the Cardinals can’t be sure of that. And even if the Cubs don’t drive the auction, does anybody honestly think Pujols won’t have a market, just because the other big spenders — the Yankees, Red Sox, Tigers and Phillies — appear all set at first base for years to come?

Let’s just tick off a few teams: Rangers … Nationals … Orioles … Blue Jays. Maybe the Dodgers, or Angels, or even the Mets if they can get their finances straight.

“I wouldn’t even rule out the Red Sox and Yankees,” said one executive. “We’re talking about Albert Pujols. I could see them looking at first base, looking at DH and moving people around. I don’t think they could let that kind of talent go by.”

The clock is ticking. Pujols said he wanted a new deal done by the time players had to report to spring training, which is now less than 30 days away. They have to make a decision and it looks like Pujols’ side isn’t willing to comprise just to stay loyal to the organization. It’s time for the Cardinals to either put a giant-sized hole in their bank account or fill a giant-sized hole in their lineup.

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