The Rangers and Cardinals got to the World Series without big-market payrolls, but they wouldn't have made it without some big contracts that were far from sure things.
This past offseason, the Rangers signed Adrian Beltre to a five-year, $80 million deal. Beltre, who turned 32 in April, had had only two really good seasons, both the year that he was going into free agency.
Signing Beltre also meant that longtime Ranger Michael Young would now mostly be a DH, which made Young ask to be traded.
So far, the Beltre signing has worked out great for the Rangers. Beltre hit .296 with 32 homers and 105 RBI and did so in only 124 games. Young dropped his trade demand and hit .338 with 106 RBI.
The previous offseason, the Cardinals signed Matt Holliday to a seven-year $120 million deal. The Scott Boras client would be averaging $17M/year through age 36. The Cardinals were tying up payroll just as Albert Pujols was approaching free agency.
When Holliday was a free agent, another power-hitting left fielder was also available. Jason Bay would end up signing for four years and $66 million, which appeared more reasonable compared to Holliday, who was getting about the same per year but would have three additional years on his deal. We know how the Bay signing has worked out.
This offseason, if the Cardinals re-sign Pujols, they will doubtless face criticism for giving him too much money and years. But Pujols is irreplaceable - one of the best players of all time who is also a great postseason performer. He may be past his peak, but he still seems far from going into decline. The Cardinals, generally far from a powerhouse team, are now in their third World Series in eight years, which would not have happened without Pujols.
Jose Reyes is no Pujols, but he could end up making as much or more than Holliday. And if that happens, people will complain that he's getting too much, especially if he ends up back with the Mets. But even the well-constructed teams that get the World Series do so with the help of big contracts that are not without controversy.
Squawker Lisa and I find ourselves on the same side in this World Series. She likes the Rangers from her days living in Texas and I am rooting for Nolan Ryan and against Tony La Russa. One would think the Rangers would win with that powerhouse lineup so I'm picking them, but I hope the Cardinals don't turn out to be a team of destiny.