- Dan Szymborski, ESPN Insider
Now that the St. Louis Cardinals have won the World Series and can officially prepare for 2012, general manager John Mozeliak gets to tackle the toughest decision of his career: Should the Cardinals open up their wallets and possibly overpay Albert Pujols for the rest of his career, or do they go another direction and let one of the best players in team history finish out his run in a different uniform?
Losing your franchise player is hard. Pujols is one of the premier players of this generation, a future Hall of Famer who already has passed the "hit by a bus" test for future Cooperstown inductees. He's an important figure in Cardinals history, but he'll turn 32 in January, and whoever signs him will pay for his decline phase. With the strong likelihood that the bulk of his Hall of Fame-level play is already in the books rather than waiting to be written, it's not simply a matter of paying the great player a lot of money. It's a lot more difficult than that, which is what makes this such a monumental decision for St. Louis.
Although the Cardinals' preferred scenario is clearly to re-sign Pujols, there are still ways for the team to compete if its star takes his game elsewhere. Let's take a look at the most likely options: