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Cardinals are doing just fine without Albert Pujols

ST. LOUIS — As the New York Yankees face the prospect of holding a clearance sale on backup third baseman Alex Rodriguez, the St. Louis Cardinals need not worry whether a bad breakup with an aging star might be in their future.

They have Albert Pujols to thank for that.

The Cardinals tried to retain their franchise player last year, offering him contracts of varying amounts and lengths, including one believed to have seven guaranteed years and three more at Pujols’ option.

The Angels guaranteed 10 years and added another 10 in a personal service contract, at a minimum value of $250 million. Pujols took the best offer and headed to Anaheim.

The Yankees guaranteed Rodriguez 10 years and $275 million, starting at age 32. Pujols started this season at 32, and his batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and home run total declined for the fourth consecutive season.

Pujols might well rebound after arthroscopic knee surgery, and the Angels might not regret the deal in the long term.

For the Cardinals, however, Pujols was a lone exception. Since he was a three-time most valuable player, the Cardinals offered him contracts that extended beyond what General Manager John Mozeliak said they would consider for anyone else.

“Length is a concern in any type of deal,” Mozeliak said Thursday. “We value the aging curve. We look at age, and when production starts to fall. We don’t ignore that.

“But Albert was a special part of this organization. He had an amazing history of success here. He was someone we were willing to take that chance with.

“In a normal — or in a more sterile — environment, we wouldn’t pursue those types of things.”

Short hops

Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright wore a T-shirt with this inscription: “RED TERRORS BASEBALL.” That is the nickname of the athletic teams at his high school, Glynn Academy in Brunswick, Ga. “I’ve got 50 texts already,” Wainwright said. … St. Louis outfielder Carlos Beltran did not play because of a strained left knee but said he hoped he could play Friday. Beltran, 35, never has made it to the World Series. … Giants outfielder Hunter Pence hit a 452-foot solo home run, his lone run batted in and extra-base hit this postseason.

bill.shaikin@latimes.com


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