February 19, 2004: Albert Pujols signs a team-record $100 million extension with the Cardinals

Just one day before the Cardinals and their 24-year-old star, Albert Pujols, were set to meet in Phoenix, Arizona, for an arbitration hearing, the two sides agreed to the richest contract in team history.

On February 19, 2004, Pujols signed a contract for at least seven years and $100 million, making him just the ninth $100 million man in baseball history alongside Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Manny Ramirez, Todd Helton, Mike Hampton, Jason Giambi, Ken Griffey Jr., and Kevin Brown.[1] The contract surpassed the Cardinals’ previous highwater contract, an eight-year, $90 million extension reached with Scott Rolen in September 2002.[2]

The contract also represented the largest ever given to a player with just three years of experience in the majors, more than tripling the four-year, $32 million contract Torii Hunter signed with the Twins.[3]

“(Pujols’) accomplishments in his first three seasons are unmatched in the history of the game,” Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt Jr. said. “Having reached this agreement, the Cardinals and their fans can now rest assured that Albert Pujols will serve as a cornerstone for the Cardinals for many years to come.”[4]

In each of his first four seasons in the majors, Pujols had placed no lower than fourth in the National League MVP voting. As a 21-year-old rookie in 2001, he hit .329/.403/.610 with 37 homers and 130 RBIs to capture all 32 NL Rookie of the Year votes and place fourth in the MVP balloting behind only Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, and Luis Gonzalez. Pujols’ rookie campaign also included the first all-star game of his career and a Silver Slugger Award.

Avoiding the sophomore slump, Pujols placed second in the MVP voting in 2002, batting .314/.394/.561 with 34 homers and 127 RBIs. In 2003, he led the league in hits (323), doubles (51), runs scored (137), batting average (.359), and total bases (.394). Pujols’ 43 homers and 124 RBIs each tied him for fourth in the NL.

In winning the batting title, Pujols became the youngest batting champion since the Dodgers’ Tommy Davis led the league with a .346 batting average in 1962. He also became the first player in baseball history to hit .300 and total 30 home runs, 100 runs scored, and 100 RBIs in each of his first three seasons.[5]

“This deal recognizes Albert not only for his accomplishments over the past three seasons, but all along we felt it was important to retain a player such as Albert who came up through our farm system and see to it that he remained part of the club’s nucleus well into the future,” Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty said.[6]

St. Louis Post-Dispatch — February 20, 2004

The contract paid Pujols $7 million in 2004; $11 million in 2005; $14 million in 2006; $15 million in 2007; and $16 million from 2008 through 2010. The Cardinals also held a $16 million option for 2011 that would make the deal worth as much as $111 million over eight years.[7] If the Cardinals declined the option year, there would be a $5 million buyout.[8]

The $7 million Pujols was receiving in 2004 was the same amount the Cardinals had submitted in arbitration; Pujols had submitted $10.5 million.[9] Without the new contract, Pujols would have been eligible for free agency following the 2006 season.[10]

“I came up in this organization. I wanted to stay here,” Pujols said. “I’ll be here for another seven years and we’ll see what happens after that.”[11]

Both the Cardinals and Pujols’ agent, Dan Lozano, said the contract was one of the most complex they had ever negotiated.[12] Those complexities forced negotiations to extend uncomfortably close to the scheduled arbitration hearing as the two sides discussed deferred payments and the inclusion of a no-trade clause.

The Cardinals wanted to defer $25 million but faced resistance from both the Major League Baseball Players Association and Pujols’ agent, Dan Lozano. However, negotiations experienced a breakthrough when the Cardinals agreed to give Pujols full no-trade protection through 2006 and a limited no-trade clause from 2007 through 2010 in which Pujols could select 10 potential trade partners.[13]

In the days leading up to their agreement, the Cardinals and Pujols’ agent, Dan Lozano, discussed one-year, three-year, and seven-year contracts. Had they had been unable to reach terms regarding the deferred money, Pujols would have signed a three-year deal worth approximately $34 million.[14]

Ultimately, the two sides agreed that the Cardinals would defer $3 million without interest from 2007 through 2010 and also would defer $3 million from the option season in 2011. The Cardinals would pay the deferred funds from 2020 through 2029 in amounts of $1.5 million if the Cardinals activated the 2011 option and $1.2 million if they declined.[15]

To complete the contract ahead of the arbitration deadline, the Cardinals signed the contract before Pujols completed his physical.[16]

St. Louis Post-Dispatch — February 21, 2004

“The money will mean something in a small way with my family, but it will not change the way I play baseball,” said Pujols,[17] who received a $10,000 bonus as a 13th-round selection in the 1999 draft.[18]

“I’m pretty sure people think, ‘What can I do with that money?’” Pujols said, “but it’s not my money. It’s money that I have borrowed from God and He has let me use it. Whatever He wants me to do with it, that’s what I’m going to do.

“Right now, it’s not about the money. It’s about myself, getting ready for the 2004 season, and about the team. If you play this game and don’t win a championship, it doesn’t matter how much money you make.”[19]

Pujols made money and won championships during his tenure with the Cardinals. After leading St. Louis to the National League pennant in 2004 and the NLCS in 2005, Pujols and the Cardinals won the 2006 World Series over the Tigers in five games.

In 2011, the Cardinals picked up Pujols’ $16 million option and he led the team to its 11th World Series championship. After the season, however, he signed a 10-year, $254 million contract with the Angels.

In his 11 seasons in St. Louis, Pujols hit .328/.420/.617 with 445 home runs and 1,329 RBIs. Along the way, he collected three NL MVP trophies, was selected for nine all-star games, won six Silver Slugger awards, and twice won the Gold Glove.


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[1] Joe Strauss, “Pujol$,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 20, 2004.

[2] Joe Strauss, “Historic deal sets Cardinals’ cornerstone,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 21, 2004.

[3] Joe Strauss, “Historic deal sets Cardinals’ cornerstone,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 21, 2004.

[4] Joe Strauss, “Historic deal sets Cardinals’ cornerstone,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 21, 2004.

[5] Joe Strauss, “Historic deal sets Cardinals’ cornerstone,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 21, 2004.

[6] Joe Strauss, “Historic deal sets Cardinals’ cornerstone,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 21, 2004.

[7] Joe Strauss, “Pujol$,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 20, 2004.

[8] Joe Strauss, “Historic deal sets Cardinals’ cornerstone,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 21, 2004.

[9] Joe Strauss, “Pujol$,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 20, 2004.

[10] Joe Strauss, “Pujol$,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 20, 2004.

[11] Joe Strauss, “Historic deal sets Cardinals’ cornerstone,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 21, 2004.

[12] Joe Strauss, “Historic deal sets Cardinals’ cornerstone,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 21, 2004.

[13] Joe Strauss, “Historic deal sets Cardinals’ cornerstone,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 21, 2004.

[14] Joe Strauss, “Pujol$,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 20, 2004.

[15] Joe Strauss, “Historic deal sets Cardinals’ cornerstone,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 21, 2004.

[16] Joe Strauss, “Cards’ desire for physical almost derailed Pujols deal,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 22, 2004.

[17] Joe Strauss, “Historic deal sets Cardinals’ cornerstone,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 21, 2004.

[18] Joe Strauss, “Historic deal sets Cardinals’ cornerstone,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 21, 2004.

[19] Joe Strauss, “Historic deal sets Cardinals’ cornerstone,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 21, 2004.

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